There are already plenty of devices for turning your dumb TV into a smart Internet-connected media center, such as the Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku, but on Wednesday Amazon will reportedly enter the fray with a device of its own. At least that’s what everyone is pretty much assuming after months of leaks and an event invitation from the company promising “an update on [its] video business.”
So how will Amazon’s new streaming device work and what will it be capable of? There have been plenty of rumors, but the truth is it’s still a pretty big mystery. So instead of just waiting for the official announcement we decided to come up with exactly what we want and expect from Amazon. Hopefully CEO Jeff Bezos can match our high expectations.
Amazon Instant Video alone is not enough, that much is obvious. Whatever the company releases will also need to support Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Crackle, Spotify, Pandora, and more if it wants to compete. YouTube is also a must-have app, though it might be hard to lock down. Apple TV offers a YouTube channel while Roku only does so on a few of its devices, and Google may not be willing to lend support to another device competing in the same space as its own Chromecast.
We’ll also see if Amazon is ready to make a play for live TV. A number of major companies from Apple to Sony have expressed interest in streaming network television in real time, but striking a deal with all the major TV providers won’t be easy. If Amazon can pull it off that would give the company a huge advantage over the competition. If not there’s always Aereo – and at least Amazon has its own original content, including new 4K exclusive shows coming later this year. A box will be the perfect delivery mechanism for that.
The new device should cost $35 or less, giving it an advantage over the competition and at least putting it in line with Chromecast. Amazon has made a business out of offering its hardware at cut-rate prices, sometimes breaking even in order to get its tablets and e-readers into customer hands, so why should its media streamer be any different? Amazon could offer a special discount for Prime members who stuck with the service through its recent price hike, or market a cheaper “special offers” version that displays ads and discounts as a screen saver. Neither option would be out of character for the company and could help keep the price competitive.
There are two obvious options here: a set-top box or an HDMI stick. A recent article from TechCrunch claimed the device would come in stick form. That makes sense if the company’s goal is to keep the price down, but it might also cut back on what the device can do. If Amazon wants to include a built-in camera or any sort of motion sensing technology it will need to offer a set-top box or some other form factor, maybe a thin bar or even something totally new. We’d love to see Amazon strike out in a new direction with its design.
That same TechCrunch story made another way more exciting claim, suggesting that Amazon’s streaming device would support not just video but also full PC games. We really, really, want the device live up to this rumor, and if it does we’ll be the first in line to pick one up. That would also explain the weird Amazon-branded controller that leaked last month, though hopefully what we saw was a very early prototype and not a final model.
On the chance that Amazon can’t match our expectations for streaming PC games straight from our computer, it can deliver a more watered-down experience in another way. At the very least, we hope to see access to Amazon’s Appstore, which means we’ll still be able to play mobile games, probably ported from Android, on a big screen. The Apple TV already allows this through AirPlay with supported titles, but so far Chromecast doesn’t offer a robust gaming experience. Amazon, especially with its dedicated controller, could create something really special.
Will Bezos have one more feature to unveil for his new media streaming device? PC gaming or live TV alone would be impressive enough, but there are a few other bonus features we’d like to see as well.
A recent rumor claimed Amazon was prepping a free ad-supported music and TV service. The company was quick to deny the claims, which is unusual in itself considering most tech giants generally refuse to comment on daily rumors. If Amazon was hoping to throw us off the scent it’s possible the new service could be tied into its streaming device, offering bonus content to Amazon Prime subscribers at no additional cost.
Depending on how many features come packed into this rumored device, Amazon customers may need a bit of help navigating the new product. That’s where MayDay could come in. The 24/7 video-conferencing tech support feature introduced with the Kindle Fire HDX could make an appearance here, though would mean packing a camera—or at least a microphone—into the design. Considering how much attention Amazon showered on MayDay when it was announced, it’s not out of the question that the same feature could be used for a streaming device.
If Amazon can pull off even a fraction of what we’re asking for at a decent price we’ll be sold. The fantasy product we’ve dreamt up may still be a bit out of reach, but Jeff Bezos is one of the few tech leaders out there who still manages to blow us away on a regular basis. Hopefully he doesn’t fall short of our high expectations at Wednesday’s big event.