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Amazon thinks outside the box for streaming service, plans Chromecast-like dongle

amazon set top box to be dongle esque streaming hdmi chromecast

The set-top box saga just got a bit juicier. Or is it really a dongle saga now? 

According to a report by TechCrunch, Amazon (like Google and Roku before it) is allegedly pursuing the dongle/flash drive-style form factor for what was, until now, thought to be a forthcoming set-top box. Also explored in TechCrunch’s report (which cites anonymous sources “familiar with the device”) is the possibility of full PC/Mac game-streaming support coming standard on the device, a blurb that should connect some dots for those following the Amazon set-top box thread closely — last week the alleged photo of a game controller that Amazon might be planning to bundle in with its box/dongle began surfacing on the Web.

Like Steam and other services such as the lesser-known Desura, Amazon already sells digital download copies of PC and Mac game titles directly from its site, so it’s not too much of a stretch to theorize that Amazon might be trying to compete for more than just living room dominance — the colossal company could be aiming at the desktop realm, too.

According to one of TechCrunch’s unnamed sources, the streaming games would likely resemble something along the lines of OnLive (which botched its entry into the game-streaming game), with the titles streaming via Amazon’s services at 30 frames per second — a feat not out of reach as Amazon already has massive server farms that sit behind the scenes of its cloud and digital content services.

Looking closely at all of the different elements that Amazon has simmering in its cauldron, one can begin to see a Google-esque kind of all-encompassing service stretching across a variety of platforms and media: Amazon MP3 (and its potential blending into the Prime service), films and shows via Amazon Instant Video (and its exclusive original content), eBooks and the Kindle Fire, and now a new TV dongle (with third-party app compatibility), plus PC and console gaming — not to mention the tiered access Amazon could implement through Prime membership to generate even more cash.

If executed correctly, Amazon could be giving more than just Google and Netflix a run for their money. 

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Alex Tretbar
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Alex Tretbar, audio/video intern, is a writer, editor, musician, gamer and sci-fi nerd raised on EverQuest and Magic: The…
Amazon readies its potentially game-changing set-top box, aims for March release
amazon sets april 2nd for unveiling apple tv competitor

According to reports by CNET and Recode, Amazon has pinned down March as the birth-month for its Android-fueled set-top box. Adding hardware to its already rapidly-strengthening position in the streaming media space means this could be a game-changing move in a space that is already rife with tumult. 
We’ve kept Amazon and its ongoing set-top box project in the corner of our eye for quite some time now. Early whispers of the mega-company’s foray into media-streaming hardware surfaced in April 2013, with rumored names for the box including Kindle TV, Kindlebox, etc. Then in October, the Wall Street Journal hinted at Amazon’s aiming for the 2013 holiday season as a landing pad for the set-top box’s release. We delved into the saga again, reporting that the specifications of the box, now nicknamed “Cinnamon,” and, most importantly, its Amazon-only content limitation, had broadened.
It was deemed likely that applications appearing on the Kindle Fire tablets (Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc.) would also appear on the set-top box, positioning Cinnamon as a definite competitor of Roku and Apple TV.
Contextually, the box’s release could lend Amazon some seriously profitable steam: consider the retail behemoth’s ownership of the cloud servers used by Netflix, its relatively well-received lunge into original content, and its increasingly robust Amazon Prime service, and one can see the potential outcomes of such a move.
The plot thickens in light of a report last month from VG247: Amazon unveiled its plan to launch, sometime this year, a device dedicated solely to games and entertainment. Could this be bundled in with the set-top box? It’s certainly possible, considering Amazon’s posting of ads in search of veteran game designers for hire, just over a month ago via LinkedIn.
Theories and projections aside, one of the only certainties here is the undeniable fact that the content-streamer game is poised to change, for Amazon’s gain or loss.

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Report: Amazon preps streaming set-top box for holiday 2013 release
report amazon preps streaming set top box for holiday 2013 release instant video

According to a report within the Wall Street Journal recently, Amazon is currently preparing to launch a set-top media streamer before the end of the year similar to devices like the Roku 3 and Apple TV. Previously reported as a device limited only to playing Amazon content, new details indicate that it will also include other competing video and music applications. While these applications haven't been specifically named, it's likely that applications that appear on the Kindle Fire tablets, such at Netflix and Hulu Plus, will also appear on the streaming set-top box.
With the code name "Cinnamon," Amazon has given media application developers a deadline of mid-October to submit apps that would work on the set-top box. Amazon representatives have also been speaking with cable television providers in order to provide access to applications similar to software like HBO GO. It's possible that the set-top box would have interactivity with Amazon's line of Kindle tablets, potentially acting as a second screen remote control or allowing users to stream content to the set-top box using technology similar to Apple's AirPlay or Google's Chromecast.
Up to this point, Amazon has relied on offering access to Amazon Instant Video through an application distributed on third party set-top boxes, video game consoles and smart televisions. With a platform dedicated to Amazon content, the retail giant could offer a more attractive platform to Amazon Prime customers. Currently, Amazon Prime customers can access a library of content for free similar to Netflix's streaming library. A dedicated set-top box would also provide a new platform to distribute original Amazon programming. 
While an Amazon spokesperson "declined to comment" on the release of the set-top box, people familiar with the project point to a late 2013 release in time for the holiday shopping season. There's no price attached to the device at this time, but it's likely that it would fall in the $50 to $100 range based on the pricing of competing products.

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Microsoft rumored to be making new streaming set top box

Always seemingly one step behind, the latest rumor has Microsoft looking to come to market with a new streaming set top box that would compete with the likes of Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee.
Anonymous inside sources revealed something was in the works to the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that the company’s Xbox gaming console provided the spark with which Redmond would look to pursue getting into the streaming media space. The Xbox is already capable of streaming content to a TV, but it looks like there may be another angle to how this might work.
Though it’s still unclear, the box might include Kinect, the motion-sensored camera peripheral that works with the game console and Windows PCs, and could also offer some level of casual gaming similar to how Angry Birds is playable on the Roku 2 XS, for example.
TV and film content would be the centerpiece of the device, but where the content would come from is also unclear. Microsoft does operate its own TV and movie streaming service via Xbox Live, but accessing it requires a Gold subscription, so perhaps this new box would be an attempt to win over consumers who aren’t interested in gaming, and even less interested in paying an annual or monthly fee just to get to the Xbox Video service.
On the flip side, Microsoft already has relationships with content providers, like Netflix, Crackle, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and YouTube, so it could conceivably get off to a running start should it choose to go that route. Skype integration is also a possibility, as would connectivity with smartphones and tablets, particularly Windows models. An added tidbit is that Microsoft may also partner with TV manufacturers to embed the streaming platform onto smart TVs as well.
Amazon has also been rumored to be cooking up its own streaming set top box for a piece of the action, which could be launched as early as the fall. If Microsoft is looking to muscle in, the timing of both launches could be interesting if their respective plans fall in line with what insiders have said thus far.
Microsoft’s new Xbox console is expected to be unveiled at an exclusive event in Redmond on May 21, where executives may also shed light on what the company’s strategy will be for non-gaming content on the device. The Xbox 360 currently sells for between $200-$300, considerably more than the average streaming box, which averages $100.
A new streaming box would mean Microsoft is late to yet another party, but with the over-the-top market beginning to heat up, the timing might not be as off as it seems.

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