Amazon had a choice in creating their Unbox video download service. They could have pleased the small percentage of people who hate DRM and demand cross-platform flexibility by trying to wrestle down the movie studios who demanded strong distribution and rights control. They could have tried to compete with Apple’s forthcoming video download service by offering Mac and iPod compatibility (which Apple would have embraced why exactly?).

Instead, they chose to please the majority of their existing customer base by creating a simple movie download service that has all of the Amazon one-click convenience. Sure it’s locked down by DRM. But so is the iPod, which was successful in part because it made digital music easy for MOST people, even though it didn’t please the small number of feature obsessed gadget buffs and didn’t please the small number of DRM haters.

The tech elite, lead by Mike at Techdirt, have eviscerated Amazon for all of Unbox’s shortcomings. And I agree that the future is the fully open and innovative offering that they think Amazon should have created. But maybe Unbox is the right answer for Amazon for today.

After all, Amazon has a massive installed customer base, many of whom will trust Amazon for their first experiment with download digital movies. And many of them will embrace the convenience and security that makes them loyal to Amazon, even if they aren’t getting as much for their money.

You’re running off on a trip and realize it would be great to have a couple of new movies to watch on your laptop (given that you iPod video screen is so eye-squintingly small). You dash over to Amazon. A couple of clicks and you’re done — you can even buy the movies at work and then download them to your laptop at home.

So you can’t watch the movie again later on your DVD player. So what? Chances are you probably aren’t EVER going to watch the movie again anyway, so it was more like a rental experience in any case.

!Amazon Unbox Amazon may eventually evolve Unbox to where Mike and others think it should be today — in the meantime, people are downloading movies at Unbox and populating Amazon’s purchase history database, which they will use to sell more downloads. And they will learn a lot about digital video purchasing — learning from purchasing patterns is, after all, what they do best.