Amazon.com is reportedly set to unveil a long-awaited TV set-top box that would let viewers watch shows streamed in over the Internet.
The website Re/Code says the rollout for the box will come in March. The product doesn’t have a name yet; TV Predictions.com has suggested Amazon Prime-Time. But the goal will be to provide a delivery system for the big Web video inventory Amazon has been building up for its Instant Video Service. Amazon has also been investing in its own programming.
The set-top box would compete against boxes offered by Roku and Apple’s Apple TV application, and it would appear that the product could set Amazon.com up for direct competition against NetFlix.
It may also be a gaming hub. Re/Code has reported that Amazon has been hiring gaming developers.
The system will be powered by Google’s Android operating system, according to re/code. That makes sense. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets use a version of Android as well. Supposedly, Amazon was going to allow third party apps in addition to its own services.
The product’s launch has been talked about — and delayed — for some time. It had been expected to appear in time for the holidays. No one is exactly sure why it was delayed. There was speculation in December there were problems in performance. Plus, Amazon was concerned about how to differentiate the box from Roku, Apple and Google’s Chromecast.
That’s the rub. It could be used to promote Amazon’s Amazon Prime Service. The Motley Fool suggested the box could also be offered free to Amazon Prime customers and soften the blow of an expected price increase. Amazon may boost the annual fee from $79 to $119. Amazon Prime gives the customer includes free shipping among other benefits. The shipping feature is proving too costly.
Amazon could use a little good news. Last week, the company was the subject of a highly critical story on the left-leaning site Salon about working conditions in its distribution centers.
The stock is down nearly 11% from its all-time high of $408.06. The decline came after investors were underwhelmed by the online retailer’s fourth-quarter results. The shares were up $4.18, or 1.2%, to $362.50 early Wednesday afternoon.