It's no secret that all TV studios hate writers, puppies and you, so it's really no surprise that NBC dropped iTunes distribution
a couple months back -- it's all part of the master plan. Luckily, the new NBC Direct service
, which is now in beta, is a tiny breath of fresh air. But by tiny, we mean minuscule. The service allows for free downloads of NBC shows up to seven days after they air, but it's Windows and IE only -- which does nothing to help Mac users left stranded by Amazon Unbox. The episodes also delete automatically after 48 hours, and the player installation requires all sorts of hoop jumping and Windows Media ickyness. There's also no mobile device integration or really much of any reason at all to choose the downloaded versions over online versions unless your internet connection is shaky or you just want to screw over the writers a bit more effectively. Hopefully promised iTunes-competitive features like pay-to-download (the current version includes unskippable ads) won't be long in coming.