Amazon's planning a streaming TV set-top box for release next fall, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The move would put the giant online retailer into a crowded space, alongside Apple TVs, Rokus, Xboxes and PlayStations, which already populate the homes of so many cord-cutters and offer feeds to Amazon's streaming-video and video-on-demand services.
The chances of this to-be-named Amazon TV -- already dubbed a "Kindle TV" by observers -- breaking into this online TV market and coming out with profits seem slim. So why bother?
Here's a theory: The notoriously profit-allergic company didn't build Kindles expecting to make a profit selling the device. Indeed, Bezos recently admitted that Amazon expects to just break even on its latest two tablets. If the same is true of a "Kindle TV," the device could end up being well below the Apple TV's $99 price tag, or even Roku's starting price of $49.
A rock-bottom price could convince more people to buy a box that connects their televisions to the Internet. And on a "Kindle TV," Amazon could make sure its own videos, including its just-announced original series, are front and center. Cable companies (much much more profit-hungry) must be thrilled Amazon is getting into this game, as it makes their expensive channel packages even less appealing.
Even ignoring price, an Amazon-made television experience might end up making TV-watching a whole lot more like surfing the Internet. Already, younger people -- after years of watching video on their laptops and, more recently, tablets -- are used to toggling between a tab playing the latest "30 Rock" on Hulu and another buying shoes on Amazon.
On a "Kindle TV," just like on a Kindle tablet, the same feat could be accomplished by switching apps. Reading an e-book might not make much sense with a remote and an 80-inch display, but shopping for clothes on Amazon's store right from a TV? We'd rather have that than yet another brand of smartphone.