updated 07:00 pm EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Will leverage Prime Video, rumored to offer game and music streaming also
A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims that Amazon is in the process of demonstrating to partners and developers a nearly-complete set-top box device designed to leverage the company's Prime streaming services and compete directly against Apple TV and Roku. The device is thought to be debuting sometime next month, and may also offer game streaming.
Alleged Amazon game controller
The news follows reports of an Amazon-branded game controller with media buttons and rumors of console-quality games being streamed from a specialized server, implying a separate subscription service similar to OnLive. Amazon also bought Double Helix Games in February, presumably to develop content for the alleged game streaming service. The form factor for the device has not yet been revealed, but may be similar in nature to Google's Chromecast, in the form of a dongle that plugs directly into an HDTV's HDMI port.
Amazon Prime members will likely be able to carry over the benefits of their membership, including unlimited streaming from Prime Video and a rumored music service, to the new device. The WSJ report also says that Amazon has lined up brick-and-mortar distribution partners such as Best Buy and Staples to carry the device, though pricing is said to still be in flux. The Amazon device may or may not also offer Netflix, as the service is seen to compete directly with Prime Video, and the box is said to run on another forked Android-based OS variant.
Mock-up of Amazon "dongle" concept rumor
Apple is thought to be working on a revamped, next-generation Apple TV set-top box of its own, possibly including some ability to run iOS games directly. Little is known about the project, but Apple has been studiously beefing up the offerings on the current edition, and is thought to be in negotiations with major cable players to bring more live content to Apple TV. CEO Tim Cook recently admitted that the Apple TV segment of the business no longer qualifies as "just a hobby," having grown to be the most popular of the after-market HDTV accessory streamers and topping $1 billion in annual sales last year.