Amazon plans free streaming video
Watch out Netflix. Amazon is moving in, putting more pressure on the streaming movie and television service.
Greg Bensinger had this scoop for the Wall Street Journal:
Amazon.com Inc. plans a free, advertising-supported streaming television and music-video service, a departure from its strategy of offering video only to members of its $99-a-year Prime service, according to people familiar with the matter.
The new service, which could launch in the coming months, likely will feature original series and may include licensed programming, these people said. As part of the project, Amazon has held talks with the creators of “Betas,” a series about a Silicon Valley startup that Amazon produced last year for Prime, these people said.
Amazon also plans to offer free music videos with advertising to people visiting its retail website, two of the people said. A search for Bruce Springsteen CDs, for example, might yield an option to watch the “Born in the U.S.A.” video.
An Amazon spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
The new project is part of a broader push by Amazon to transform itself from a retailer into a multimedia power. The company dominates e-commerce, but it has seen rivals like Google Inc.’s YouTube and Netflix Inc. leap ahead in streaming music and video.
Many have speculated that Amazon’s April 2 press conference will be a debut for a device to stream content. Writing for CNet, David Carnoy had this quick report:
For months, Amazon has been rumored to have a video set-top box in the works to rival the Google Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV. Well, we may finally get to see it on April 2, as the company has sent out a press invite for an event in New York, where it will discuss “an update to our video business.”
At many of Amazon’s larger press events, CEO Jeff Bezos delivers the presentation, but in this case it appears that Peter Larsen, a vice president in Amazon’s Kindle division, will do the honors.
At this point, it’s unclear what exactly the new device is, though rumors suggest that it will be shaped like a dongle — similar to Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s new Streaming Stick — and be very affordable, with a possible discount for Amazon Prime members.
But Thursday also brought other news for consumers. The New York Times reported in a story by Nick Wingfield that Microsoft was finally going to allow its Office suite on iPads:
One of the most lucrative software franchises in history, Microsoft Office, has finally come to the most influential computing device of the last few years, the iPad.
Microsoft’s new chief executive, Satya Nadella, announced the product at a news conference in San Francisco on Thursday.
At the conference, Mr. Nadella said Microsoft intends to make sure its Office software can work on all major computing devices, including those made by its competitors.
“What motivates us is the reality of our customers,” he said.
Microsoft’s decision to bring Office to the Apple device comes after years of wavering by the company as it mulled over the product’s implications for its own efforts to make a tablet computer. To many people, the move is a refreshing sign of a new Microsoft, one slowly unshackling itself from an era when all of its major decisions were made in deference to Windows, Microsoft’s operating system.
But to skeptics, Office for the iPad is arriving dangerously late.
That’s because the delay has given people who use iPads, especially business professionals, years to get used to using the tablet without Office, a suite of programs that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Start-ups like Evernote, Quip, Smartsheet and Haiku Deck, along with Apple’s own iWork suite of applications, have filled the void left by Microsoft with productivity applications that work on tablets and other devices.
For both of these companies, it’s a story of being left out and playing catch-up in offering various services in high demand for customers. The move by Amazon to an ad-supported model may also be attractive for marketers looking to engage customers, particularly those giving up TV for on-demand content.
Jordan Crook wrote for TechCrunch that Amazon’s plans will be made clear on April 2, but that it has a good chance of capturing the market:
But in a world where everyone is hooked on binge-viewing and on-demand content, Amazon has a good opportunity to push people toward its own video content.
As it stands now, Amazon Instant video is included with your Prime package as a last ditch effort to get you to sign into the Amazon Video app on your Roku or Apple TV, instead of the much more prominent and popular apps like Netflix, HBO Go, and Hulu.
With it’s own Box, Amazon could offer all the same channels as its competitors and give more prominent placement to its own original and licensed content. Or, if they don’t want to tell any of these new devices, they could exclude other content sources and just focus on Amazon Instant Video offerings.
It’s an interesting move for a retailer to move into content. But what’s clear is that consumers are the big winners in both the Microsoft and Amazon moves. More available content will likely drive down prices, while having access to business tools on mobile devices will only make people more productive where they want to be.