UPDATE: I've received a number of inquiries from readers asking how to contact Amazon.com to complain about the PlayBook's sudden inability to stream Instant Video. You can send questions/complaints/concerns/etc. to Amazon via the company's customer support page.
I'm a big fan of Amazon.com….or I was until last week.
I've been a loyal customer of the online retailer for years, buying books, music, gifts, etc. Recently I started purchasing Kindle e-books to read on my various mobile devices and Instant Video TV shows and movies to watch on my BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. In other words, I've dropped quite a few dollars on Amazon purchases.
But last week Amazon did something that made me seriously reconsider my loyalty to the company: It blocked Instant Video streaming on the BlackBerry PlayBook. And Amazon blamed the PlayBook's Flash player for the issue, saying the Flash software needed to be update, even though my Adobe Flash software is up to date (v188.8.131.52) and I've been watching Amazon streaming video on my Research In Motion (RIM) tablet for the past year, since the PlayBook was initially released.
Even more astonishing, Amazon also blamed Apple. <iGasp!>
The following text comes from an Amazon customer service e-mail I received from another perturbed PlayBook owner:
"At this time, 'PlayBook' is not a supported device for Amazon Instant Video content. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
Apple Inc. has exclusive rights to the hardware and software that would make it possible for Amazon.com to provide Amazon Instant Videos for these devices. Because of these restrictions, we are unable to offer compatible video content at this time.
Thanks for your interest in Amazon Instant Video. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Huh? Apple owns the rights to the hardware and software that would allow Amazon video content to be played on the BlackBerry PlayBook? Yet Amazon has allowed Instant Video customers to play video content on RIM's tablet for the past year, and just now the company decided to block the functionality?
Something isn't right here, and I reached out to Amazon.com's media relations team more than 24 hours ago for clarification, but I haven't received a response. The above response from Amazon customer service could simply be misinformation sent by an irresponsible customer representative. (Shame on you if so, Mantri.) But that doesn't change the fact that Amazon has suddenly decided to turn a cold shoulder to its BlackBerry PlayBook customers who use PlayBooks. And it doesn't change the fact that Amazon is serving up a false error message claiming the inability to play Amazon video content on the PlayBook is due to a Flash error.
That's simply not true. I can still stream Amazon Instant Video to my Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, which is using an even earlier version of the Flash Player (184.108.40.206). Amazon videos will even start to play on my BlackBerry tablet for a few seconds before an error message is served, proving that the tablet can indeed display the content.
The company could at least tell the truth and explain that the PlayBook is no longer "compatible" with Amazon streaming video because it wants you to buy a Kindle Fire tablet. But if Amazon's trying to make the Kindle Fire more attractive to me by limiting the other devices that can access content I've already paid for, it has failed miserably. In fact, the company succeeded only in making me hesitant to continue doing business with it.
I've seen Amazon's less-than-stellar business practices in the past—the company
shadily remotely deleted customers' purchased Kindle copies of two George Orwell books in 2009 without notifying the owners—so I guess I should've known something like this might happen.
My Kindle Cloud Reader browser-based app still works on the PlayBook, but I can't help but wonder for how long. (In the fall of 2010, Amazon also promised a Kindle app for PlayBook, but has failed to deliver on that promise.)
I'm disappointed in Amazon to say that least, and until I hear back from the company with some kind of explanation, I'll remain that way. And I'll update this post with an official statement from Amazon, along with whatever clarification may be warranted, as soon as I receive this information.
Shout out to Brian (@bld) for forwarding me the Amazon customer service e-mail