Light Reading

Amazon Gets on the Stick Too

Mari Silbey
3/18/2014
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The Amazon set-top that Bloomberg said would launch last fall is now reportedly in the queue for next month. And it's no longer a set-top, but a streaming stick. (See Amazon Set-Top Slated for Fall.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) will sell the new Android-based gadget through its website and through retailers, including Staples and Best Buy. Meanwhile, Techcrunch is reporting that the device will be an HDMI adapter like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Chromecast and the latest offering from Roku Inc. (See Roku Sticks It to Google.)

Unlike its competitors, the Amazon streamer is said to be a source for gaming as well as video. The details aren't yet confirmed, but it's possible that the Amazon stick will stream existing PC titles in addition to offering access to Android games. Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny recently found evidence of an Amazon Bluetooth gaming controller that could pair nicely with a game-oriented HDMI stick.

On the video side, Amazon is likely to promote its own Instant Video offering, but multiple outlets also suggest the company's new retail gadget will ship with Netflix and Hulu Plus support. Netflix service, at the very least, should now be considered table stakes in the retail streaming market.

Even as more big brands jump on the streaming stick bandwagon, it could be a while before US cable operators follow suit. Although the cable companies like the idea of deploying cheaper hardware, vendors are still working out the kinks to make sure that an HDMI adapter could support a full premium television service.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) apparently has fewer misgivings. Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said earlier this month that the set-top it acquired through the acquisition of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s OnCue assets is "a little bit bigger than my thumb." However, it's not clear if Verizon would offer the OnCue device with a fully-fledged FiOS TV service, or if it would use the hardware to market a lighter pay-TV package. (See Can Cable Stick One on Chromecast?.)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2014 | 5:29:37 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
Mari, interesting questions.

I vote that Verizon will go with the pay-lite and offer a package to attract the markets they don't already dominate.

I can imageine that Amazon has more choices in that they can play to their markets and their partnerships, including special packages with Netflix.  They may be able to put together a very competitive offering.

What role do you see for set-boxes in the future?
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/18/2014 | 6:13:50 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
I wonder what, if anything, will differentiate the Amazon product from Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV. Seems like the marketplace is getting crowded with extremely similar products. 
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2014 | 6:19:40 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@FakeMitchWagner, agreed.  In the listing you provided I think Apple will be hard to beat. 

I think, however, that Amazon may again come up with an "angle", like with an attractive streaming arrangement with their partners, that could be competitive.  Otherwise, they are going to have an uphill swim - as you point out, it is getting crowded.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/18/2014 | 8:00:36 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
That sounds tough (an 'angle').

I have Netflix, Amazon, & Hulu. After a while, it all starts to look & feel the same. I mean we notice from time to time that one service has something another doesn't content-wise, but that's the only real differentiator.

So unless Amazon can get some incredible conten package that the others don't already have, it seems like just another play in an already played-out market.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2014 | 8:05:34 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@Pcharles09 Is that why you keep all 3, because they all offer somewhat different content? 
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
3/19/2014 | 8:34:36 AM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
The story suggests there might be some differentiation here in the Amazon stick if it offers gaming. Otherwise, all things being equal, that either leaves us with price deciding a winner, or the notion that many sticks will exist and customers will go with the provider with whom they already have the strongest relationship.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/24/2014 | 9:21:13 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
I guess so. It's probably the fear that once I cancel one of them, they'll magically decide to offer a show I like.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/24/2014 | 9:38:24 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@pcharles09, ah, the fear of missing out. 
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/27/2014 | 10:38:32 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
It's sad but it's true. They should write more about this in books that we're forced to read when we're young. So we understand the dynamic better.
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/18/2014 | 8:31:46 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@pcharles09 - good assessment.  They are entering a "crowded field".  It will be up to them to provide something truly unique.  I don't think anyone else could do it and it will be questionable if they can - but if anyone can, I believe they have the network to pull something together that becomes viable.  Another "vanilla" version won't cut it.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/19/2014 | 8:56:48 AM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@DHagar, yes, we need chocolate! Or at least chocolate chip!
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/19/2014 | 1:01:14 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
DOShea, Gaming would be an interesting mix.  That also brings up the question of whether or not Amazon has a target market (i.e., demographics)? 

 
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/19/2014 | 1:48:22 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
Amazon's entry into the stick wars could be a game changer, pun intended. Gaming is a large industry and if enough of the younger crowd buys into the Amazon world it may just know Google's Chromecast down a step or two. Anyone entering that field now has to come with something unique or cool to outstep Google.
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/19/2014 | 1:04:39 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@Ariella, there you go!  Clearly something that provides what consumers want would be an edge.  Making the consumer king could go a long way towards Chocolate Chip!
DHagar
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DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/19/2014 | 2:18:48 PM
Amazon Gets on the Stick Too
@kq4ym, interesting thought.  I am almost thinking in the Google/Amazon race that Google could win?  But this will be interesting to watch and yes, I fully agree they must have some target strategy in mind, given the competition; just look what they did when they entered the crowded market with Kindle.

 
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