Bloomberg’s Businessweek is reporting that Amazon, the e-commerce giant who also has their own line of Android compatible Kindle devices, will be making a fall introduction of a set-top device to compete with the Apple TV. The article cites “three people familiar with the project who aren’t authorized to discuss it,” as the source of the information.
They say the box will plug into TVs and give users access to Amazon’s expanding video offerings. Those include its à la carte Video on Demand store, which features newer films and TV shows, and its Instant Video service, which is free for subscribers to the Amazon Prime two-day shipping package. The Amazon set-top box will compete with similar products, such as the Roku, Apple TV, and the Boxee Cloud DVR, along with more versatile devices such as the Playstation 3 and the Xbox. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
While many set-top boxes currently on the market already give their users access to Amazon’s video catalog, by building its own device, Amazon can put their content directly in front of consumers, expanding their lineup of Amazon concentric devices, and giving developers another reason to develop for their ecosystem. (It seems companies have learned well from Apple’s closed iOS ecosystem. – Ed.)
The set-top box is reportedly being developed by Amazon’s Lab126 division in Cupertino, Calif. The sources say the division has toyed with TV-connected devices for years. The project is said to be run by Malachy Moynihan, a former vice president of emerging video products at Cisco Systems who worked on that company’s consumer video initiatives. Moynihan also spent nine years at Apple in the 1980s and 1990s.
Amazon has been making moves in the video production arena recently, as earlier this week it introduced 14 television pilots, all of which it financed. The company is currently monitoring customer feedback in order to decide which pilots might be worthy of full series development.
Some say a set-box would give Amazon’s customers a more familiar way to view Amazon’s video content. “It would certainly make some sense,” says Jason Krikorian, a general partner at venture capital firm DCM and the former co-founder of Sling Media, who is reported not to have knowledge of Amazon’s plans. “They have a ton of content, an existing billing relationship with millions of users, an existing Android app marketplace that could be leveraged on the box, a reputation for solid hardware products, and a terrific channel through which to promote the product.”
It is unknown if Amazon would allow competing video streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube onto its set-top box. While it seems likely Amazon will welcome them, Kindle Fire owners can access those services through apps on their devices, it is likely they will take a back seat to Amazon’s own streaming content.