Could Amazon Set-Top Box be an All-In-One Media Center?

Amazon reportedly has plans to launch a television set-top box that would stream video over the Internet to televisions and provide access to the company’s expanding video services, including the Amazon Video on Demand store. The new device, expected as early as sometime this year, would compete with Apple’s set-top box, Apple TV, in addition to video-delivery products from Roku, Boxee, Microsoft and Sony.

“Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is pushing the company into a broadening array of hardware, including tablets, electronic readers and a planned smartphone,” reports Bloomberg.

“Many competing set-top boxes already give access to Amazon’s video catalog,” notes the article. “By building its own device, Seattle- based Amazon can put its content more directly in center of consumers’ living rooms, while giving developers another reason to create applications for Amazon’s digital ecosystem.”

“It’s a smart move, but the company needs more than just a hockey puck-shaped device that lets you watch ‘Downton Abbey,'” suggests Wired in a related article. “It needs to make a huge impression if it hopes to win customers away from Apple and Roku.”

Wired suggests that Amazon could create more than a mere STB and suggests it has the potential to create an all-in-one media center if it takes the extra steps to include integration with pay TV services from cable and satellite operators, a cloud-based DVR, a smooth intuitive user interface and a “semi-walled garden for apps [that] would allow Amazon to push a device without having to create an entire operating system.”

Pricing and a name for the product remain under wraps at this time. Amazon’s strategy in the past has been to sell hardware at competitive prices, even at a loss, in order to push content sales. The set-top box could follow a similar path to promote the company’s online store and music and video-on-demand services.

If Amazons’ strategy with its Kindle Fire line of tablets is any indication, the device will likely coexist with streaming rivals such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.

“Amazon has been rapidly expanding its efforts in the video arena,” Bloomberg points out. “Earlier this week it introduced several television pilots, which it financed, and it is now monitoring customer feedback to decide which ones to produce as full series. The company has also paid to secure exclusive streaming rights to hit shows such as ‘Downton Abbey.'”