March 28, 2014, 6:32 AM —
An Amazon streaming set-top box has been grist for the rumor mill for quite some time. We talked about it most recently just last week.
Yesterday many media outlets received invitations to an Amazon event to be held in New York on April 2nd. The topic? "Please join us for an update on our video business" printed on the image of a couch. Pretty much everyone who got the invite thinks the Amazon streaming box will make its debut at this event. This fits in with many reports that the release was imminent.
Assuming all the leaks are correct, we'll see a box running on the same Android fork that Kindle Fires run. It will of course support Amazon Streaming Video, but apparently Hulu and Netflix too. That makes sense; the box will be competing with things like Roku and Apple TV which both offer a wide variety of services.
A bigger question mark surrounds gaming. We've seen leaked images of a gaming controller from Amazon; we'll see if Amazon is really that serious about gaming or not. I tend to think not, but I've been wrong before.
More interesting is a new rumor coming out of The Wall Street Journal that says Amazon is planning a free (ad-supported) streaming service. This service would show Amazon original series as well as other licensed content. Music videos are also mentioned but it sounds like those will play on Amazon.com while you're looking for CDs or MP3s to purchase.
If Amazon is going to launch a set-top box, it makes sense for them to pair it with an ad-supported video service, if they can manage to swing it. It seems to me it'd be a lot easier to sell this Amazon streaming box if they can say you get free content on it. The alternative would be to put together some kind of bundle of Prime + Box for a healthy discount. Otherwise pitching a box you have to buy in order to enjoy a streaming service that costs another $99/year seems like a marketing challenge.
Anyway I guess all will be revealed next Wednesday at 11 am ET!
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