Starting October 30, the choice of streaming sticks and set-top boxes for sale on Amazon will not include devices that don’t support its Prime streaming service. That means Apple TV and Google ChromeCast will no longer be available for purchase from Amazon.com.
Amazon claims the move will avoid consumer confusion by ensuring any streaming device it sells works well with its Prime cloud-based video offerings. Some skeptics look at the move as an attempt by the company to limit consumer choice, but on the flip-side no one company currently enjoys a monopoly on cloud-based content delivery. Potential beneficiaries of Amazon’s decision are sure to be the company’s own Fire TV product line of streaming devices, as well as the Roku series of streamers, which also support Amazon Prime Video.
In defense of its decision to cease sales of devices that don’t support Prime streaming, Amazon says that “Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime. It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion. Roku, XBOX, PlayStation and Fire TV are excellent choices.”
While Amazon is making the leap to Ultra HD 4K streaming through the new Fire TV set-top box, both the new Apple TV and the new ChromeCast dongle are limited to 1080p HD streaming and playback. Personally, I’m rather disappointed Apple did not choose to support UHD/4K content at this time.
Roku is widely expected to make the leap to UHD resolution and support Amazon Prime with its next streaming player. Is Amazon’s decision to sell Rokus and Fire TVs a gambit to pressure Apple and Google into supporting Amazon Prime on their streaming platforms? Will UHD content give Amazon’s Fire TV a leg up on its 1080p competitors? One thing is certain; the answers will come sooner rather than later in this rapidly shifting media landscape.
This Monday (October 5) I will have a UHD/4K-capable Fire TV in-hand, and I will publish a hands-on report shortly thereafter. The last Fire TV struck me as a great device, but a lack of support for Vudu pushed me toward the Roku 2, and I never looked back..
Ultimately, the services supported by any given device form a crucial part of the consumer calculus on which platform to adopt. Currently, the Roku 2 is the best HD streaming device I’ve used, easily besting the last generation of Apple TV, Fire TV, and ChromeCast when it comes to speed, ease of use, and reliability. It’ll be interesting to find out if Roku can maintain a lead in this increasingly competitive market segment.
I’m curious about your thoughts on Amazon’s decision. Google and Apple are formidable foes, but Roku remains the king of streamers and Amazon has tons of clout at the retail level. Are you planning to try or buy any of these next-generation devices?