With its Fire TV device reportedly selling steadily, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is entering the streaming stick segment, competing directly with Roku and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) with a competitively priced, $39 Fire TV stick.
The Fire TV stick with remote control. (Source: Amazon)
"Fire TV Stick is the most powerful streaming media stick available--a dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, dual-band and dual-antenna Wi-Fi, included remote control, voice search with our free mobile app, easy set-up, an open ecosystem, and exclusive features like ASAP for instant streaming," Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, trumpeted in a corporate release.
The stick comes with several streaming apps--besides Amazon's own Prime Instant Video and Prime Music services, users will have access to Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, Twitch, Showtime Anytime, Vevo, Plex, A&E, PBS, PBS KIDS, WATCH Disney Channel and YouTube.com. Spotify and Pandora are also available for music streaming.
However, according to a Time story by Doug Aamoth comparing the stick to the Roku and Chromecast devices, the Fire TV stick doesn't include the HBO Go app.
And while it boasts an impressive amount of RAM and a decent Wi-Fi chip, the 8 GB capacity seems anemic. "Amazon needs more storage because of its emphasis on games and apps that can be loaded onto the Fire TV Stick, though: Storage isn't really an issue on the other two sticks," wrote Aamoth.
Amazon is definitely facing some uphill competition from Google and Roku. The latter announced in September that it has sold more than 10 million streaming devices since 2008, and according to Parks Associates is the most-used streaming device in U.S. homes. And while Google hasn't yet provided details on the number of Chromecast sticks it's sold, its device is available in 18 countries and has been on the market for more than a year.
In other Amazon news, Reuters reported Monday that the retail giant purchased a streaming startup, Rooftop Media, which records and streams performances by comedians around the country.
While details of the acquisition weren't disclosed, Reuters said that Amazon plans to integrate Rooftop Media into its Audible audio book service. While the acquisition itself isn't considered large, Rooftop Media offers live-streaming of both audio and video, raising interest in how Amazon plans to knit together its live-streaming investments, including Twitch.
On its most recent earnings call, CFO Tom Szkutak stayed neutral on Amazon's plans for Twitch. Not surprising, considering the acquisition closed just a month ago, on Sept. 25.
"They're doing some very innovative things on behalf of their customers and our customers and so we're excited to have them, be part of Amazon and look forward to working together with that team," he told analysts.
However, both acquisitions are reflective of Amazon's continuing investment drive, as it sinks millions of dollars into a variety of purchases. While its $437 million loss in the third quarter rattled investors somewhat, the company is continuing to collect companies to build its own jigsaw puzzle.
Some see its moves as a good thing for Amazon's future.
The Verge's Ben Popper pointed out in late August that Amazon's buy had immediate benefits for Twitch. It would have greater access to Amazon Web Services, allowing Twitch to continue to scale up its live-streaming services. And Amazon may help Twitch to deal with content licensing issues that arise from things like background music in live-streamed game videos.
"Amazon isn't well known as a gaming service and its video offerings are principally from film and television studios, not user-generated content," Popper wrote. "But when you look at where these two companies are trying to go, not where they currently sit, the combination of Amazon and Twitch could be genius."
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