If you did some online shopping this holiday season, chances are you bought something from Amazon. And if you did, you certainly saw a splash ad for the company’s own devices, including one for the Fire TV Stick, which was slashed from the regular $39.99 to just $24.99.
I know I did. And when I saw the ad for the 17th or 18th time, even though I wasn’t planning to buy the Stick (I already had a first-gen device, which lacks Alexa integration), I found myself clicking “Add to Cart.”
I wasn’t the only one. Amazon says its customers bought 2.7x times as many Fire TV Sticks over the Black Friday shopping period than it did over the same period last year. It also claimed to have sold “millions” of Alexa-compatible devices.
That’s impressive. It also might make you wonder: How can any other purveyor of video streaming devices compete? Apple didn’t help itself when it decided to offer its Apple TV 4K at a prohibitive price point, starting at $179. To be fair, the Apple TV 4K more directly competes with the new Fire TV box, but the price difference is still eye-popping — you can buy a Fire TV today for just $54.99. Even if you look to streaming mainstay Roku, it’s 4K Ultra streaming box sells for $89.99.
Beware what you buy, though, since it might not be compatible with the services you want. Google made that abundantly clear recently by restricting YouTube from Amazon devices, and Amazon famously doesn’t make its streaming apps Google Cast-compatible, meaning they don’t work on Google Chromecast. It doesn’t even offer any Chromecast or Apple TV in its store… or at least it didn’t until this week.
Will things get better among streaming competitors? How does Amazon get away with selling its devices so cheap? And what are the guiding principles for its Fire TV line? Scott Henson, Amazon’s director of product management for Fire TV, swings by the MashTalk podcast to give some insights into Amazon’s streaming-box plans, as well as some thoughts on why how we’re watching is almost as important as what we’re watching. He also tackles the question: Will we ever see ads on Amazon video?
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(Note: This podcast was recorded before Amazon announced it would accept Google Chromecast and Apple TV back into its online store.)