Amazon Is Building a Streaming TV Box You Don't Need

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Rumor has it that Amazon will release a streaming TV box, which will take Amazon's streaming video offerings and funnel them through a television—something a bunch of other streaming TV boxes already do. Roku and Xbox 360 both offer Amazon Instant Video, porting over Internet television to the television set you might have bought on Amazon. People who pay the $79 annual fee for Amazon Prime can stream that library of content on their flatscreens, and right now. Plus, anyone who owns one of the existing boxes out there can pay to rent or buy the stuff via Amazon's movie store. So, if this thing already exists—people really love the Roku box, by the way—why buy a version that, according to Bloomberg Businessweek's sources, doesn't come out until thefall?

Brad Stone's anonymously sourced report doesn't offer too many details like pricing and, well, anything else that might sway a consumer. It's still not even clear if the Amazon box would offer apps such as Netflix, like Apple TV does. But if it doesn't offer a bundle of offerings from, say HBO Go or Hulu, then why buy a box from one company that only has access to that company's service? If it does offer those streaming apps beyond Amazon Instant Video, then, again, it's just like all the other streaming TV boxes out there, except with an Amazon-centric focus—and that has limited appeal. Of course, it could certainly offer those new Amazon-made shows that look so, uh, interesting

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To lure people, Amazon could go with its Kindle Fire strategy and offer a budget box. But, it's not like the set-top streaming boxes already on the market are prohibitively expensive. Roku sells its gadget starting at $49; Apple TV, which doesn't have Amazon Instant Video but features plenty of other content, starts at $99. Neither of those prices even include the $79 membership cost of, say, an Amazon Prime membership, even if Apple TV has become a nice way to make your Netflix Instant subscription worthwhile on a bigger screen than, say, your laptop. If Amazon somehow incorporated the price of its box into a Prime subscription, then it might make sense for someone who relies on Amazon Prime as much as they do on Netflix. (Amazon is very unlikely to give away the box for free, for the very same reason that its Kindle Fire costs very little money—but still not zero dollars.) All of this is assuming the Amazon adoring subscribers aren't one of the 5 million people who already own a Roku, the millions who own an Apple TV, or the nearly 58 million with an Xbox 360

Of course, Amazon probably doesn't care if its new box revolutionizes much of anything in terms of hardware. It just wants another way to get people addicted to its stuff-buying empire. And a shiny new gadget, ready just in time for its holiday push, would seem to do just that.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.