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According to a recent report by Bloomberg Businessweek, Amazon.com, the popular e-retailer, is planning to release a television set-top box. Amazon’s e-readers have been wildly popular and it has a strong market presence in the tablet world with rumors (last year) of an smartphone in the works. Amazon has not publicly commented on their set-top box plans, however Bloomberg’s sources indicate the box could be released later this year.

Bloomberg says that Amazon has been considering a set-top box for several years. It is currently being developed by Amazon’s Lab126 located in Cupertino, California. Malachy Moynihan (formerly of Cisco and Apple) is leading the development process along with other engineers that have worked on similar products for other companies.


If released, Bloomberg says Amazon’s box will be dedicated to streaming Amazon content over the internet. This content would undoubtedly focus on material from its own Instant Video Service. For those unfamiliar with this service, it includes recent movie releases and television shows, thousands of which are available to Amazon Prime members at no additional cost beyond the yearly $79 Prime membership fee. Some of these shows, such as Downtown Abbey, are licensed exclusively to Amazon. The company would also likely allow access to Amazon Original Plots, a new content series composed of original audience-influenced movies and shows.

Aside from streaming movies and shows direct from Amazon, the box could potentially provide customers with other services. This may include allowing customers easy access to the e-store’s millions of product offerings, which Amazon has made available to smartphone and tablet users through app releases. It may also offer streaming capabilities for music. And, perhaps, the device may act as cloud-based DVR service or a platform for consumers to purchase channel content in a pay-as-you-go format.

If Amazon does release a set-top product, it will be entering what is already a crowded product field. The most popular stand-alone set-top devices include Apple TV and Roku players, which have been available to consumers for several years. But other devices also provide consumers with access to streaming services such as Hulu, Vudu, YouTube, and Netflix. They include gaming machines (such as Playstation and Xbox) and numerous SmartTVs and blu-ray players that come preloaded with streaming services and apps that allow users to access internet based content such as Facebook.

Amazon would essentially be competing directly with other products that currently offer Amazon’s streaming service. If Amazon is able to offer more services (such as television shopping or access to exclusive Amazon video content) to their Prime Membership they may just have a home-run product that will be very attractive to a customer base that is already in place.

Image Credit: Amazon.com
Source Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
 

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A quick note on Amazon's VOD, or at least an option they offer, that may make such a set top box more interesting.

When you buy certain Blu-ray's (maybe DVD's as well), Amazon will give you a free version of it in their streaming service. I just picked up I Am Legend on BR, and noticed this in the confirmation email for the order. I checked my streaming account, and sure enough, there it is. A nice feature that Netflix, etc, doesn't offer.
 

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Will the streaming version of the DVD you purchase remain indefinately or is there a time limit? Reason I ask, is this is good if it stays forever in case your dvd gets lost or damaged. :)
 

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Well I checked, and disappointingly the rental expires in a month. While it is still a nice feature, I was hoping a digital copy (a la Ultra Violet) would be stored in my digital account for the very reasons you mentioned. So, while it is still nice, and allows you to view the movie right away (if you are really hankering to see it), it is not a stored copy.

Maybe eventually it will be. It would be really cool to have a feature such as that automatically done. Maybe the licensing costs are just too high to make it profitable currently?
 
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