Set-top boxes

Amazon Gets on the Stick Too

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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pcharles09 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.
Ariella 3/24/2014 | 9:38:24 PM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too @pcharles09, ah, the fear of missing out. 
pcharles09 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.
DHagar 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.

kq4ym 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 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 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)? 

Ariella 3/19/2014 | 8:56:48 AM
Re: Amazon Gets on the Stick Too @DHagar, yes, we need chocolate! Or at least chocolate chip!
DOShea 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.
DHagar 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.
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