Amazon’s TV Set-Top Box

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Amazon's TV set-top box

Your living room is the next frontier for technology. Consumer electronics makers have saturated the market with handheld devices. While these devices offer the freedom of mobile computing, most people don’t want to watch movies and TV shows on the small screen. The set-top devices that exist are limited, stale and leave much to be desired. The technology in your living room is long overdue for a refresh.

According to Bloomberg, an Amazon TV set-top box is coming this fall. The online shopping leviathan is joining the crowded TV appliance market. Will Amazon come up with something new and innovative, or offer more of the same?

Do We Really Need Another Set-Top Box?

The market for TV set-top boxes is saturated with myriad gadgets. Beyond the dedicated devices offered by Roku, Boxee, and Apple, numerous game consoles have the ability to play streaming video. If you subscribe to digital cable, your cable box can most likely stream on-demand content and integrate with your smart phone or tablet. Home theater PCs (HTPC) are also ubiquitous these days, although the user experience can be cumbersome. The decision between a Mac Mini and an Apple TV was easy for me. Price wasn’t too much of a consideration. I just didn’t want to be fiddling with a bulky wireless keyboard and staring at a small mouse pointer. A successful set-top box must be easy to use and have access to a universe of content. There is room for another player, so long as the offering is outstanding. Amazon could achieve this.

Amazon is a late-comer to the set-top box market. This does not mean they will fail. In fact, Google rushed into this market with some notable failures — the first generation Logitech Revue and Nexus Q. The main issue was lack of content. The Logitech Revue launched with major networks blocking the device. It was a beta-quality product. The flop even led to the ousting of Logitech CEO Gerald Quindlen. The Nexus Q was an impressive yet expensive device ($399), which only offered content from Google Play. Content is king in the set-top box market. Amazon’s size in the market affords them advantages, even if they are late-comers.

Can Amazon Succeed?

Amazon is a leviathan. They have the resources to play hard ball in the content game. While an Amazon set-top box may be new, Amazon has been offering streaming content for years. In addition to pay-per-view content, Amazon Prime subscribers have a selection of free content to enjoy. While the selection pales in comparison to Netflix or Hulu Plus, it gets better all the time. According to Morningstar, Amazon Prime now has 10 million subscribers. It remains to be seen whether these subscribers are actively watching video content. Amazon Prime’s main advantage is free two-day shipping. The free video content is a perk. (continue…)

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