So there you go: Jeff Bezos’s first entry into the TV-box game is aimed squarely at Apple TV and Roku — and, crucially, at the many millions of people who don’t know what those things are.
If you do know what an Apple TV or Roku box are, Amazon is going to try to convince you to pay the same $99 for its box, which does the same thing the other boxes do — it lets you stream video from the Internet to your TV — by adding extra features, like the ability to search using your voice. And it’s going to appeal to casual gamers (or people who have kids) with a $39 add-on game controller.
But given that most people don’t have any kind of streaming video box at all — worldwide sales are likely less than 25 million — the key thing to watch, for now, is how aggressively Amazon pushes its box to the rest of the world.
A quick visit to Amazon right now gives you a sense of what Bezos could do, if he wants: His home page is dominated by an ad for Amazon Fire TV.
The question is what happens next: Is Bezos, who so far has made his video stuff comically hard to find at his store, going to keep this front and center? Or does the box, and the rest of his video stuff, go back into a corner?
Probably somewhere in between. In the coming months, Amazon is going to have a lot more video on its site, period — not just shows it has bought or produced for its Prime Instant service, but ad-supported stuff that everyone can see for free.
It’s still interesting that Bezos isn’t going all-in on the streaming box, for now, by making it so cheap it’s an afterthought, or just free. But again — Amazon has been competing with Apple and Google in the tablet world for a while now, and while it has been willing to push prices down, it has yet to give its hardware away.