Amazon Introduces Fire TV Stick

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick.

Today, Amazon got into the streaming-stick game with the announcement of the $39 Fire TV Stick, an HDMI-port plugin for your HDTV that will replicate much of the functionality of the full-size Fire TV.Amazon unveiled a media-streaming device that plugs into a TV set to let users browse video and music from Netflix, Hulu and Pandora Media, seeking to extend its reach in customers’ digital lives.The failure of the Fire Phone has been widely cited as the reason for Amazon’s disastrous quarter, but a darker cloud has settled over the world’s biggest online retailer.

Existing Amazon Prime members can preorder the stick for just $19 in the next couple of days, but it won’t ship until November 19, according to Amazon’s site. Those include a dual-core processor that should mean zippy reaction times, more onboard storage than its competition, and second-screen treats for Amazon tablet users that include X-Ray sync with onscreen content. This long-predicted shift in consumer priorities–from ownership to access—also seems to be taking a bite out of Apple, another business that depends on convincing people to buy things. Also, it’s not clear if the Stick has the Fire TV’s Free Time, a password-protected area for younger kids that lets parents choose what their kids can see, and set time limits for how long they can watch shows. Loads Amazon content quickly due to ASAP; you have an HDX tablet or Fire Phone you want to “fling” stuff from; you want a free month of Amazon Prime; has good CPU and audio specs.

During the last quarter, Amazon’s North American sales of media—books, music, movies, games—grew five percent compared to the same time a year ago. Google sold about 3.8 million Chromecast players last year, tying Roku as the bestselling brand in the streaming media player market, according to market research firm Parks Associates. But that figure turns out to be the lowest year-over-year growth in North American media sales in more than five years, says Colin Gillis, an analyst at Wall Street outfit BGC Financial. “Given the dispute with book publisher Hachette, it is hard to not view that the very public dust up had a negative impact on media sales, both from the decision to stop selling certain book titles and a possible backlash against Amazon from readers,” Gillis says. Although its sales have slowed this year, Google’s player accounted for 20 percent of sales last quarter and has supplanted Apple TV as the market’s second-most popular brand.

And if there’s not an officially supported channel on Roku, chances are good that there’s an unofficial version that you can manually connect to the device. Instead of a would-be renter and lender having to track each other down one-on-one, the owner of a used text book can simply put it up on Amazon. (It’s a model textbook publishers hate, because they only make money on new book sales, which is one reason textbook prices are going through the roof). The latest move is part of a wider industry shift from streaming media boxes toward cheaper streaming sticks. “That is really changing the overall sale structure of the industry,” says Barbara Kraus, an analyst with Parks Associates.

The streaming market is the core of Roku’s business model, not a means to some other end, so the company has more to lose if rivals keep pushing prices down. Also like Fire TV, the Stick is optimized for those already living within Amazon’s ecosystem. (When we tested Fire TV, it performed best with Amazon’s services.) For example, you can send content from a Fire tablet or phone to your TV, or wirelessly mirror content on them—and some other Miracast-enabled—portable devices. It also supports X-ray, a second-screen feature that will display additional information about the shows or movies you’re watching on a Fire phone or tablet. The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that digital music sales on iTunes had declined 13 percent to 14 percent since the start of the year. Not that Amazon’s and Roku’s interfaces are overly complicated in any way — there’s really no bad interface for this category — there’s just something elegant about the Chromecast’s simplicity.

The rise of streaming music apps wouldn’t be possible without powerful, portable, connected digital devices that have access to significant bandwidth for transferring data quickly. As the Journal notes, Apple acknowledged this trend with its purchase of Beats Music, a deal that included both its headphone and streaming music businesses.

In a recent New York Times Magazine piece, writer Dan Brooks lamented the loss of a certain kind of cultural identity deeply tied to the ownership of music: the record collection. The culprit: streaming music services that give everyone everywhere access to nearly every song ever recorded: The bad news is that we have lost what was once a robust system for identifying kindred spirits. The irony, Brooks notes, is that streaming has brought once obscure music out of hiding: searching for tiny acts is as easy as searching for the biggest Top 40 stars. The most mainstream tech companies, the ones that have made access versus ownership easier than ever, are now experiencing their own losses because they’ve helped make accessing easier than owning.

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