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Android Television The Media Hardware Entertainment

Amazon To Put Android In Set-top Box To Compete With Apple, Roku 104

Posted by timothy
from the just-a-humble-little-bookstore dept.
sfcrazy writes "Amazon is all set to get Apple and Roku some serious competition with its own 'web-TV' or set-top box. According to reports, Amazon will be using Google's Android to build the box. Amazon already has a huge library of content (from Amazon Prime) which it can push to the living room through the box. Amazon, like Netflix, is also investing heavily in producing content to their own set-box. Amazon has also been hiring game developers and it won't be surprising if the company also dabbles into gaming." And while it may be only a rumor, the idea's got some reasonable legs: besides the content on Prime, Amazon has been making media-centric Android devices for a few years with its Kindle Fire line.
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Amazon To Put Android In Set-top Box To Compete With Apple, Roku

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  • Unless the other features include something compelling, not sure the motivation to buy this. Even on Apple TV, you can play Amazon Video content if streamed via AirPlay from an iPhone/iPad.
    • by t0qer (230538)

      Roku doesn't have the Play store (tm). If Amazon allows you to connect controllers, it will be emulation happy times.

    • by tepples (727027)

      Unless the other features include something compelling, not sure the motivation to buy this.

      The ability to use a phone other than an iPhone. Currently, Apple has a monopoly on phones compatible with Amazon video.

      Even on Apple TV, you can play Amazon Video content if streamed via AirPlay from an iPhone/iPad.

      But then you have to buy an iPhone/iPad first.

      • by Scowler (667000)
        Why would you buy an Apple TV if you didn't already own an iPad/iPhone? Maybe it will be a worthwhile thing to consider if/when Apple refreshes the device, but as it stands now Roku is probably the best bet for someone iOS/Android agnostic. And Roku can indeed play Amazon Video, whether you control it from the dumb remote or from the Android/iOS Roku App.
        • I really like my AppleTV, but you're exactly right. If you don't own a Mac or an iOS device, AppleTV loses a significant chunk of its appeal.

        • We're an iPhone-free house, and while my wife has my old iPad, neither of uses it.

          We've had a Roku here, but we ended up standardizing on the ATV as our preferred streaming platform. Its ease of use and interface, for us, were superior to the Roku. We also consume a bunch of iTunes rental movies, which obviously aren't available via Roku. While the Roku lets you rent movies from other sources, those other sources (e.g. Amazon) didn't have the selection we wanted.

      • The ability to use a phone other than an iPhone. Currently, Apple has a monopoly on phones compatible with Amazon video.

        That's a weird business decision on the part of Amazon. Amazon Instant works on the Android based Fire. Why they decide not to support other Android devices is anyone's guess.

        • The don't allow you to even watch video in a browser on any other Android device.

        • by DrXym (126579)
          Amazon is just trying to build itself a walled garden (like Apple) and its a bit hard to do if they let every one in. So they cut access to some of their services to the outside world to give people a reason to buy their device. I question why anyone would be mad enough to bother though. From a hardware perspective their devices are all right but the software is just poor by comparison to standard android and the app store is more expensive and features less apps.
      • ...

        The ability to use a phone other than an iPhone. Currently, Apple has a monopoly on phones compatible with Amazon video.

        Even on Apple TV, you can play Amazon Video content if streamed via AirPlay from an iPhone/iPad.

        But then you have to buy an iPhone/iPad first.

        Then what is this doing in Play?
        https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.avod&hl=en [google.com]

        • by tepples (727027)
          From the page you linked: "This app is incompatible with all of your devices."
        • by BobMcD (601576)

          One thing a lot of people miss is that Google TV isn't the same architecture as the rest of the ecosystem, so there's almost no cross-compatibility. It may as well be an Apple device, from the Android point of view.

    • Even on Apple TV, you can play Amazon Video content if streamed via AirPlay from an iPhone/iPad

      The ios7 client can always be altered to remove this functionality.

      • by Scowler (667000)
        Apple approved the Amazon Video App submission fully aware of its AirPlay capabilities. While anything is always possible "in the future", I think this level of suspicion is unwarranted at this point.
        • AH. Good point. But I was thinking that Amazon might remove airplay in order to boost the sales of their box.

  • I've used both Android set-top boxes and Chromecast, and I prefer Chromecast. An Android set-top box requires more attention and configuration than I like, and a direct phone-to-TV connection ties up the phone. Chromecast strikes a nice middle ground, allowing autonomous playback without the hassles of having to maintain another device.

    • Re:Chromecast (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Scowler (667000) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:17PM (#46317451)
      It is not exactly a full-fledged stand-alone streaming box. Chromecast requires a third-party smart device, usually a smartphone/tablet, to initiate the stream. While that makes it cheaper, and is not an impediment to the more tech-savvy users; it makes its overall market more limited. Amazon would be wiser to pursue a device that can be operated with either a dumb remote or a smart device, even if that makes it more expensive. Chromecast also lacks an ethernet port, which I personally find annoying.
      • by skids (119237)

        I just wish these products moved the phone-to-stb comunications channel over to bluetooth, instead of using multicast services over WiFi, since that creates a demand in enterprise BYOD environments for things like bonjour cross-vlan proxies, for that matter, actually turning on multicast on the enterprise WLAN. It's so much cleaner if you can just leave it off, because unless you actually managing to get more than one user on the same AP to view the same content at the same time, catering to consumer-grade

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Quite the opposite: almost everybody already has a smart device that they are familiar with and that they are keeping updated.

        If you make the set-top box a separate smart device, it requires users to install, learn, and maintain two devices. That's a lot worse than what Chromecast offers. On the other hand, if you make it just make it dumb screen mirroring, it ties up the phone.

        As I was saying, I think Chromecast is better than either fully dumb or fully smart devices.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        The main advantage of Chromecast for app developers is that it's very lightweight - a thin HTML client which is only responsible for streaming because the UI for authentication, account management, content browsing etc. is somewhere else. It's relatively cheap to support and relatively simple to integrate into existing Android / iOS players they may have. It's also not unreasonable to suppose most people have a smart phone or tablet they could use in conjunction with it and the device itself is very cheap.
  • Or, they could just add Chromecast and prime instant streaming support for existing Android devices. Much less e-waste that way.
  • set box is so '90s (Score:5, Interesting)

    by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:32PM (#46317529) Homepage Journal

    I completely understand what Amazon is trying to do, but the whole set-top box thing is a bad play.

    Amazon is working from an old playbook. They're trying to do now with this box what M$ did with Xbox...it's why M$ could allow Xbox to run at a loss...it got Microsoft a space on the shelf in the living room.

    Shelf space as marketing tool is old news (and was never a good idea)...ex: Netflix

    Amazon is going to lose money on this deal. No one wants **another** box....especially one that doesn't do anything that Netflix can't do.

    Amazon should work on competing with iTunes, spotify, etc instead of this move...the movie business is almost always a losing proposition for tech...Netflix is an exception that can't easily be supplanted.

    • Amazon is going to lose money on this deal. No one wants **another** box....especially one that doesn't do anything that Netflix can't do.

      Netflix can't combine all-you-can-eat VOD and a substantial discount on expedited shipping of physical goods into one subscription.

      • nice try tepples/Amazon PR

        "all-you-can-eat VOD" is bullshit corporate marketing speak...its audio & video files...seriously Amazon didnt 'innovate' that at all

        and what does that leave us with???

        a **shipping discount**

        wow!

        so futuristic and **INNOVATIVE**...i can see the TED Talk now!

        no way that Netflix could ever compete with a discount on shipping! Apple? yeah right!

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Netflix doesn't need to. An open platform for competiting services already exist. Netflix doesn't have to stand alone. It can stand beside competitors and benefit from their presence.

        THAT was the genius of AVOIDING exactly what Amazon is trying to do here. Netflix benefits from an open platform that is not seen as an Amazon or Apple or Netflix exclusive.

        • Netflix doesn't need to. An open platform for competiting services already exist. Netflix doesn't have to stand alone. It can stand beside competitors and benefit from their presence.

          Which competing shipping discount service were you talking about?

      • I'm a Prime member, and I hardly watch Amazon's streaming video because too often, after I've watched a few shows of a series, they've told me I had to pay to watch the rest.

        Fortunately for them, I bought it mainly for the free two day shipping. Unfortunately for them, all this talk about the price going up has led me to reexamine just how much stuff I actually *need* to get in two days... and the list is pretty short. It looks like I'll save money dropping Prime and paying for expedited shipping only when

      • Netflix can't combine all-you-can-eat VOD and a substantial discount on expedited shipping of physical goods into one subscription.

        Why would they want to? I go to Netflix for all-you-can-eat VOD, and I go to Amazon to shipping of physical goods. It's not likely I'd got to Netflix for shipping--or to Amazon for VOD.

        • by tepples (727027)

          Netflix can't combine all-you-can-eat VOD and a substantial discount on expedited shipping of physical goods into one subscription.

          Why would they want to?

          Because subscribing to Prime is cheaper than subscribing to both Netflix and Prime.

    • No. This is a good idea. They risk being out of the market. If companies like MS and Apple keep owning this space they won't have a place to be in.

      • first, just because M$ & Apple jump off a bridge, does that mean Amazon must as well?

        They risk being out of the market.

        wtf market...

        the cheap plastic bullshit set-top box 'market'? M$ and Apple aren't doing that

        the funding TV series (aka 'producing') 'market'? M$ and Apple aren't doing that

        There is no 'space' that M$ and Apple 'co-own' unless you're talking about the Desktop OS...otherwise, and including this set-top 'content' box...your comparison and general notions of how the industry works are ridi

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Amazon is going to lose money on this deal. No one wants **another** box....

      You clearly have no idea how many STBs are out there.

      Even if you assume there's no overlap between xbox/playstation customers (unlikely) and that they all use their game consoles to stream tv/movies, and throw in the rounding error that is all the other STBs from Apple to Roku and Chromecast, you're still only talking about 25% of the US, at best.

      So, if we just assume Amazon isn't even interested in existing STB owners to buy their

    • Amazon is going to lose money on this deal. No one wants **another** box....especially one that doesn't do anything that Netflix can't do.

      You didn't think it through. I have a Roku, which is great. I have Amazon Prime, which is great. Dealing with Amazon video through the Roku is a little inconvenient.

      If Amazon gives me something that does what Roku does, and ties it so conveniently to my Amazon account that it eliminates the Roku hassle, I won't want **another** box, I'll want a **different** box.

      I'm not sure why you posted that absolute statement.

    • The world doesn't revolve around Xbox. There are plenty of households without a console who would benefit from a cheap video streaming device.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Amazon is going to lose money on this deal. No one wants **another** box....especially one that doesn't do anything that Netflix can't do.

      Amazon doesn't care for hardware. They sell their kindles and such at practically cost.

      You see, Amazon's business model is use hardware to sell content. The hardware's sold cheap, because people will use Amazon's content store to buy content for it, making up the money and encouraging more Amazon-only sales. Amazon doesn't care that they sold the box for a loss, as long a

  • Hi! We're looking for a new Receiver, and it should probably have about 20-30 hdmi ports.

    • by Scowler (667000)
      It's annoying, but best thing might be to buy a standalone HDMI switch and put all your less frequently used boxes on this one. If you stack this HDMI switch on top of your living room ethernet switch (if you have one), you can also get nerdy with the cable pairing symmetry.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The best thing is to get a TV or receiver which can switch all your inputs. That way you don't need to deal with yet another remote, or a stupid expensive multifunction remote - they either cost a hundred bucks and up or they pound sand.

        My TV has eight inputs, only hardcore console aficionados should need more than that. Six of 'em are HDMI. I have a wii, an android stick, a PC, and a Blu-Ray hooked up, there's still a port free for when I bring in the 360, and then there's still some more ports free.

  • by NapalmV (1934294) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:39PM (#46317567)
    If it:

    - Accepts large (TerraByte) external storage media via USB and understands FATxx, NTFS, ext3fs and HFS+
    - Understands and plays m4v files to at least the level supported on current iPads (i.e. H.264 video, AAC surround, captions and chapters)
    - Can translate AAC 5.1 to LPCM 5.1 when using HDMI output and/or and has 5.1 analog outputs and converts AAC 5.1 to them

    I am pre-ordering NOW. I mean really NOW. Amazon, please take my money... please....
    • Accepts large (TerraByte) external storage media via USB and understands FATxx, NTFS, ext3fs and HFS+

      I'd be surprised if Microsoft and Apple would allow licensing of NTFS and HFS+ patents at a reasonable royalty. I think it'd be better to use UDF for removable USB mass storage, which GNU/Linux, OS X, and every Windows operating system since Vista can read and write [ortolo.eu]. The last desktop PC operating system to lack UDF write support will lose security updates in two months.

      • by NapalmV (1934294)
        They actually do. WD TV Live Streaming box lists FAT32, NTFS and HFS+ as supported filesystems. I used FAT32 and NTFS so far and they work fine. I guess WD paid some license fees.
    • Allows you to put your Amazon purchases on said external storage so that we dont have to stream. And if they had it so that it began downloading as soon as the purchase completed...say in the middle of the night for those people that bought the entire season, then even better.

      Streaming sucks. Even on cable, streaming sucks. Its only redeeming feature is that it vastly increases what is available. Just do it Amazon, give us the download to disk option. Heck, they could even setup a torrent....ev

    • I agree with all of your specifications. And I'd like to add some form of networking and a gigabit Ethernet connection to them.

      BUT!!!

      How about thinking of different scenarios that you'd like supported by this?

      1. Sitting in front of a TV (directly attached box) and watching a [DVD / Blu-ray / laser disc / other disc media]. (probably via external device and converter cable or whatever)

      2. Sitting in front of a TV (directly attached box) and watching a streaming video from [Netflix / Amazon / Hulu / etc].

      3. Si

      • by NapalmV (1934294)
        My main application would be 3. Many people would like to do 2 & 4 too. I would be against 1 as it would mandate Cinavia.

        As far as 3 is concerned, I've tested various existing devices with m4v (h.264 video + AAC audio + captions + chapters) and the results are: - WD TV Live will downmix to 2 channels when AAC is used; also it will not play the captions inside the m4v container (you'll need to demux them and save as a separate .srt file) - Playstation 3 will play 5.1 AAC sound (it converts it to LPCM be
    • also add:
      1. dlna support (lacking on the roku).
      2. a browser [chrome?] so hbo go will work (it works on the appletv through comcast but not on the roku, apparently shotime anywhere also suffers this way). 3. a phone app that can also be used as a remote (typing into search fields on the roku app is awesome)
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Why would you even want to connect external storage directly to a STB? I'd rather not disturb the dust in that area. My STB already sits on my network, and can play anything on my network. As an added bonus, it doesn't have to understand the filesystem at all. Unless you really feel a burning need to run fsck on your STB there's no reason for it to support your chosen filesystems.

      $20 at Amazon (heh) is enough to get you a Series 4 Pogoplug with SATA and USB2 on top and 2xUSB3 out the ass end. This is what I

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      - Accepts large (TerraByte) external storage media via USB and understands FATxx, NTFS, ext3fs and HFS+
      - Understands and plays m4v files to at least the level supported on current iPads (i.e. H.264 video, AAC surround, captions and chapters)
      - Can translate AAC 5.1 to LPCM 5.1 when using HDMI output and/or and has 5.1 analog outputs and converts AAC 5.1 to them

      I am pre-ordering NOW. I mean really NOW. Amazon, please take my money... please....

      First, tell me how this benefits Amazon i

  • I personally have been looking at the Gbox Midnight MX2. They come pre-rooted, with a bunch of pre-loaded software such as Xbmc.

    Right now I use a WD TV Live, and it works alright. I really do not like how it organizes content and is not very customizable.

    I had a HTPC at one point, running Linux and my own custom interface I developed myself, but the lack of Netflix is what drove me to the WD TV Live. Now netflix is supposed to be easier to set up on Linux via pipelight, I haven't played with it yet though,

    • There must be about a million varieties of Android STBs. The Gbox doesn't appear to be anything special and as the webpage says (it's framed as a warning, but actually it's an advertisement) there are lots of cheaper versions around. It also seems to be "last year's" tech - given that the newest Android STBs sport 2GB of RAM and quad-core processors.

      I really don't see why Amazon would try to get into a well established and over-supplied market. They don't have anything original or worthwhile to offer.

  • If this is like the Kindle Fire I'd suggest people stick with Roku:

    - The Kindle Fire has stuck a worse UI over Android than even Samsung managed with Touchwiz
    - As Amazon wants you to use their store over Google Play it also means you lose out on Google Maps, Chrome, etc
    - It's the only tablet I know where you need to pay to remove ads from the lock screen.

    - Regular Android tablets and the iPad already have access to Amazon content, so there's no reason to buy a device that makes it difficult to get content a

    • by The Cat (19816)

      That explains why the Kindle Fire is the third best-selling tablet [mirror.co.uk].

      • by linuxci (3530)

        Doesn't mean it's any good. Windows is still the biggest selling OS and I'm sure mcdonalds doesn't make the best hamburgers.

        I've used iPads, the popular Android tablet and the Kindle series and I think the kindle offers a poor experience.

        If someone in the UK asked me to recommend a cheap tablet I'd recommend Tesco's Hudl (not sure if it's available elsewhere under a different name). Best midrange device is a Nexus 7. Above that I still think the iPad is the best but the gap with the Nexus is small and mostl

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @02:57PM (#46317657) Journal
    Yet another set top box. Yet another walled garden. Yet another service that will not interoperate with other services. Yeah, it is "android", but if it is locked down and can only run apps that were pre installed in the factory, what is the point of it being android?

    What advantage any of this will have over a Chromebook + HDMI cable + bluetooth keyboard & mouse combination?

    • by elrous0 (869638)

      That's one of the many reasons I love the Roku 3: no walled garden. Side-loading channels is easy.

    • by NapalmV (1934294)

      What advantage any of this will have over a Chromebook + HDMI cable + bluetooth keyboard & mouse combination?

      Well, it can be smaller, quieter, more energy efficient and use a "TV remote" for interface (instead of keyboard and mouse). As a bonus all the family members could use it. From the kids looking for cartoons to grandpa that couldn't be bothered to learn how to operate a computer.

      • I have many remotes in my house, including a Harmony. The best remote, hands down, is my ipad remote program, that hooks into my AppleTV. Why?

        Three reasons: it uses a network connection instead of line of sight IR. It has a two way connection. And it has a keyboard.

        I just wish it could control more things-- such as volume and mute.

        • by NapalmV (1934294)
          The Playstation 3, which predates the iPad by some 4 years, has a TV style remote that uses Bluetooth to communicate. If your main application is watching movies, I personally think that a TV style remote is better suited than a keyboard :-)
          • right, but my receiver, my tv, and my disc players all have ir remotes, not bluetooth. It should have been standard years ago.

            keyboards are useful for vimeo, youtube, hulu, netflix, and most any client that needs a login.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          XBMC has the same thing, with an Android app which is capable of controlling XBMC on any platform, including Android. There might be an iOS app too, I wouldn't know. I use XBMC on a MK908 as my STB, with a Minix airmouse for control. Then I can drop out of XBMC and run Youtube or Netflix, etc.

    • by Scowler (667000)
      I think the advantage is that it doesn't require a Chromebook + HDMI cable + bluetooth keyboard & mouse...
    • by The Cat (19816)

      and can only run apps that were pre installed in the factory

      False [http]

  • Im not buying a half dozen boxes and subscribing to their services just to get all the exclusive content

  • Seems unlikely.

    All of the Amazon protected video content is protected by FlashAccess, which would mean a working implementation outside of the built-in one that's in the official Google Chrome, but not in Chromium.

    This wouldn't be such a PITA, but at the end of Feb of 2012, the verification mechanism for the FlashAccess plugin for Flash changed. Unless the box contained a TPM and a trusted boot path, it would be possible to have one device impersonate another by interposing the unique device identifier rep

  • If they would make a Chromecast app I'd be more than willing to buy movies through their service. I already have about 30 Google Play Movies titles but there are some titles in Amazon streaming that are not available. Until they make it viewable on my screen, I won't buy any more from them.

  • There have been regular rumors that Amazon will be raising Prime subscription fees. It seems plausible that they would include the set top box for free with increased Prime fees to control PR and incentivize renewal. Amazon already treats other devices (e.g., Kindle) as loss-leaders.
  • I guess now I know why the Amazon Instant Video viewer app isn't available to any normal Android device... Bugs me because I already have an Android set-top box that flawlessly plays 1080p video, not just streaming stuff, but like h264 and whatnot... And it only cost me $25 unlike the $100+ I'm sure Amazon is going to charge.

  • Netflix was one stop shopping.

    Now Warner things I will pay the same price for just their movies.

    Will amazon Prime box be the same problem with Roku?

    Do they really expect me to hook a half dozen boxes to my TV when one box with software apps would do?

    Seems like VHS vs Betamax-- and ROKU is pretty well established so It's probably VHS.

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