Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has quietly been working on a competitor to Google’s Chromecast which is essentially a self-contained streaming stick which allows you to turn any ‘dumb’ TV into a smart TV with a simple Wi-Fi-enabled HDMI dongle. The Chromecast has been around for quite some time and now sells for $35. It allows you to stream from your laptop, desktop or smartphone to display on to your TV and to send content from your devices to your TV via the Chromecast. The Chromecast connects to your Wi-Fi network and uses it as an intermediary between all of your devices that wish to serve it content. Currently, it supports a few dozen applications with the most important ones being Chrome (obviously), YouTube, Pandora, Hulu, Netflix, and Plex.
And now, Amazon is once again challenging Google directly (like they did with the Fire TV, Fire Tablets and Fire Phone) with the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Stick is quite plain and simply Amazon’s own beefed up version of a Chromecast with what they claim to be double the RAM and an improved MIMO antenna which enables a stronger Wi-Fi signal and potentially better speeds. Amazon also touts that the Fire TV Stick has over 200 games available to it already, as well as a compatible game controller, which neither the Chromecast nor the Roku streaming sticks have as options. The real key with the Amazon Fire TV Stick is that it has Amazon’s Prime Video service available to it, which the Chromecast does not, however the Chromecast has HBOGo functionality, which the Amazon Fire TV Stick does not. And with HBO saying that they plan to offer HBO as a subscription service without cable service, there’s a very good chance that having HBOGo could be incredibly valuable.
There’s no denying that Amazon’s offering seems quite good, especially since Google’s Chromecast still does not have that many applications available to it and they are both relatively the same price. The biggest problem Amazon will have with the Fire TV Stick will be getting consumers to understand what it can and can’t do and selling their performance and gaming ability as a benefit over Google’s Chromecast. After all, they don’t want to turn the Fire TV Stick into another Fire Phone where they overprice the device and oversell its abilities and then thousands of them go unsold and they have to take hundreds of millions of dollars of losses on it.