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Amazon’s TV-Streaming Box Is Almost Here

Amazon appears ready to unveil its own TV streaming device on Wednesday at a press event in New York City. That meshes with my own reporting, which suggests that an Amazon set-top box will hit the market within days—possibly on or around April 4, with pre-orders potentially opening immediately. It’s not yet clear what the streaming device will cost.

Amazon is apparently not trying to out-Chromecast the Chromecast. Instead, it’s expected to release a device that’s more of a box than a dongle—think something closer to an Apple TV or a Roku 3 than Google’s streaming stick. Of course, Amazon could always offer multiple versions of its gadget; we may just have to wait to see if it also offers an “HDMI stick”-like version.

Either way, Amazon is not likely to be offering a bargain-basement device here. It’s likely to run a version of Android and apps downloaded from the Kindle Appstore. There are strong indications that it will allow for gaming somehow, much as recent rumors have suggested. 

Since Amazon launched Instant Video in 2011, it has invested heavily in its streaming inventory. It has been expanding its selection of movies and TV shows, a decent portion of which Amazon Prime customers can stream for free, and has also developed several original series such as Alpha House and Betas.

Business Insider reports that Amazon’s streaming box will also offer Netflix and Hulu streaming services, which are really must-haves for any TV streaming device today.

But What Will It Cost?

The biggest question has to do with price. One of the big reasons Chromecast took off last summer was its inexpensive $35 price. It would make sense for Amazon to follow suit—it has a history of taking losses on hardware to bolster sales in other departments.

Kindles may not be as big as iPads or other Android tablets, but they do bring in the bucks for Amazon. According to research from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Kindle owners outspend other Amazon shopping customers (at roughly $1,233 annually versus $790 per year). And Morgan Stanley thinks Kindles are directly or indirectly responsible for 11% of the company’s revenue and as much as 23% of its operating profit.

So an Amazon TV product makes plenty of sense. Having its own set-top box would give the company a direct connection to users without having to rely on someone else’s hardware. As it is, that’s a hit-or-miss proposition. Roku and TiVo both offer some version of Amazon streaming, but it’s not available via Apple TV or Chromecast. 

But if Amazon offers a powerful streaming and gaming box, and prices it cheaply, it could wind up in living rooms everywhere.

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