Yesterday, PBS announced a download to own pilot involving Google Video and Open Media Network. This won't be a full review (nor am I perhaps the best person to do that) but today I splurged and spent $1.99 x 2 to download the same 28-min. episode of NOW from each service to get a feel for the user experience. If you're a producer and would like to get your feet wet, it's a good four bucks to spend.
Both Google and OMN require a download. Google's 4.5 MB download is for its Google Video Player. Browsing and ordering, however, are done on the web. OMN's 6.5 MB download (Windows or Mac) is a client that does everything, incorporating whatever player you have on your system to match the encoding format of the program involved. I could not find an encoding rate for the proprietary Google Video (gvi) file, but its size was 273 MB. The OMN Windows Media (wmv) file was encoded at a very high rate of 2.7 mbps and came in at 552 MB. OMN is designed to (in a future release) permit syncing with TiVo and other devices. So far as I know, Google is a computer-only experience.
The purchase experience was about the same in each case -- easy.
Subjectively, the wmv file was super sharp and looked great, even blown up as far as my 21-inch monitor would support. The gvi file looked quite soft in a side-by-side comparison, something one would expect from the encoding difference, but in fact most OMN video is encoded in the 1 to 1.5 mbps range and, having seen a lot of them, those wmv files are sharper than the gvi file of about the same size. It would be interesting to learn Google's encoding rate and something about how its compression algorithm compares to wmv. Perhaps some reader can point me in the right direction. Apparently, there's a way to save gvi files as avi files, but I didn't try to figure it out. PBS could encode these files at half the rate, IMHO, and have a great user experience and halve the download time.
Google has two very user-friendly features that OMN lacks. Instead of giving you a file size like OMN, Google gives you the running time of the asset. That's easier for it to do because it controls the encoding format and, presumably, the encoding rate. OMN takes a format-and-encoding-rate-agnostic approach so it's hard to calculate. The other nice feature of Google's player is a thumbnail index. That, of course, makes it easier to browse through the program.
OMN has the edge on personalization features. Both enable you to rate program, but OMN allows you to suggest a parental control rating and comment on the program. OMN has good tagging functions that I couldn't find in Google's case.
Would be interested to hear from others who have tried both services. --Dennis