Kindle TV Release Date Estimates, Kindle TV Predictions

Kindle TV might be arriving in 2013.

Here’s what the rumors say –

  1. Daily Mail UK on Kindle TV – ‘Three people familiar with the project who aren’t authorized to discuss it’ tell Bloomberg that Kindle TV will arrive this Fall. Funny how it is always people not authorized to discuss it who reveal this stuff. What part of ‘not authorized to discuss it’ do they not get. Now Jeff Bezos is going to throw a chair at them (sorry, wrong CEO).
  2. Daily Mail again – Lab126 is going to develop it. Yeah, since they’ve run out of every possible improvement they could do to Kindles. Not.
  3. Daily Mail yet again (bloody parsnips) – The Former VP of Emerging Video Products at Cisco (who also worked for Apple) is leading the Kindle TV team.
  4. Slate does a quick Kindle TV article and mentions the competitors – Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, PS3. Slate thinks it’s bad news as Amazon will undercut everyone on price. I think the competition will do them good.
  5. Slate talks about Amazon’s reluctance to make profits (in favor of growing itself) and thinks that with a set-top box cutting corners and sacrificing build quality and design won’t matter (yeah, right until it breaks and stops working).
  6. Slate also thinks that it’ll be focused on Prime customers and aimed at growing the number of Prime memberships. That makes sense to me. Amazon has shared that Prime customers are profitable customers and that it wants more of them. What better than a low-cost set-top box to attract more members. Not everyone needs an eReader or even a Tablet – However, nearly everyone has a TV and can be persuaded into a set-top box that offers free movies and shows.
  7. Chris Gayomali at BusinessWeek asks the key Kindle TV question – Could Kindle TV conquer your living room? He doesn’t really offer an answer.
  8. Bloomberg broke the Kindle TV news and has a very well-written Kindle TV write-up.

It seems ‘three people’ talked too much and now everyone thinks a Kindle TV is arriving this Fall. That’s certainly more interesting than ‘Here’s a wild rumor’ or ‘Amazon’s PR department gave me a tip’.

Three people. We can’t say this is definite, but it definitely was three people who told us about it.

When can we expect Kindle TV to arrive?

Kindle TV Release Date Estimates

My guess is that we would have –

  1. An announcement (with much fanfare) in end September to early October. This gives Amazon a chance to lock-in preorders and get a good idea of how many devices to manufacture. Can’t wait for the ‘This is the Best Set Top Box … at any price’ announcement.
  2. A release in mid to end November. As we’ll reiterate below, the Holiday Quarter is Amazon’s key opportunity to sell devices. Amazon needs to ship in November to give users all of November and December to buy. It also needs to ship in November to try and ensure it doesn’t get outdated by devices other companies release.

Could it be released earlier? Very unlikely.

If Amazon releases in July, and then Apple TV arrives in Fall and turns out to have some new killer feature, Amazon won’t be able to recover. A mistake like that for the V1 of the product might even kill it entirely. Amazon must wait and see what Apple TV and Google TV and other set-top box makers are doing. Then it can deliver something compelling and at the right price point.

The next questions is – Why does Amazon need a Kindle TV?

Kindle TV is Amazon’s MiniStore in the Living Room

Two main reasons Amazon needs a Kindle TV –

  1. Firstly, it’s dependent on companies like Microsoft and Sony and Apple to deliver its Amazon Video services. That’s a recipe for disaster because it already competes with all of them on various fronts (including selling video). They might, and at some point of time probably will, remove Amazon from their devices.
  2. Secondly, what better than a little Amazon MiniStore right in the living room. If you want to sell people movies and TV and games (and Amazon certainly wants to do that), then what better than a little TV set-top box. It lets people buy whatever they want to play on their TV right from the set top box.

There’s a lot of talk of ‘The Battle for the Living Room’ and there’s some credence to it. Sony has Playstation. Microsoft has Xbox. Apple has Apple TV (although it’s got nowhere near the presence of the former two). Then we have Roku, Boxee, Google TV.

A lot of companies are realizing that the best place to sell people living room entertainment is … the living room. Who would have thunk it.

As far as the question of – Can Amazon win the Living Room?

Well, if we look at Kindle Fire, the answer would be – Partially. It might capture 10 to 30 million households over its first 2-4 years and Amazon would be super happy with that. The ‘Living Room’ is such a big market than even #2 and #3 and #4 players are going to prosper. Amazon, since it sells pretty much everything, might profit (aah, the cruelness) more than most.

Finally, how will Kindle TV do?

Kindle TV Predictions

Please take all these predictions with a grain (or a mountain) of salt. Here are my predictions –

  1. Amazon will either use the standard ‘$100 for Kindle TV’ approach and do decently but not very well. Or it will come out with a crazy ‘Free with Amazon Prime and/or free with Kindle Fire HD’ offer and do very well. In the former case it might sell 2-4 million Kindle TVs this year. In the latter case it might sell 5 to 15 million. Obviously, it’s not going to make 15 million. So I’d expect it to make 2-3 million, see really good sales if it does a compelling offer, and then scramble and get to around 5-7 million sales. Prediction: Amazon will go with a crazy offer (or at least with a $50 Kindle TV) and sell 5-7 million units.
  2. The Holiday Quarter is very, very important for Amazon (even more so than for other retailers). Kindle TV sales in this holiday quarter (if Kindle TV does release in time) are likely to be more than the next 2-3 quarters combined. So Amazon has to bring its A game. Prediction: Amazon will deliver.
  3. Most Kindle TV sales will come from Amazon customers and Kindle owners. No surprise there. Prediction: 70% of sales are from current Amazon customers, with 35% being Kindle or Kindle Fire owners.
  4. Kindle TV will work with TVs and have Amazon Video on Demand and Amazon Instant Videos (no surprise) and it’ll also work with Kindle Fires (slight surprise) and will also come with live TV (there’s talk of Boxee integration). Prediction: Kindle TV will have Amazon Video on Demand, Amazon Instant Videos, Live TV, Kindle Fire integration (perhaps only announced at launch).
  5. Amazon will again use the ‘Free Publicity Trick’ of comparing Kindle TV against Apple TV (and perhaps against Microsoft’s rumored Xbox set-top box, supposedly being announced on May 21st). Will the press fall for it again? Well, is the Pope Catholic?

Have to think more about what Kindle TV might mean for the rest of the set-top box makers. It is, however, becoming clear that we’re seeing a War of Ecosystems now. Amazon has a huge advantage over most companies with ecosystems. It also have numberous advantages over nearly all companies that don’t have a strong ecosystem.

Kindle TV is a safe bet and a good one to make. The success of the Kindle has certainly give Amazon incentive to start trying lots of other hardware. To be quite frank, I doubt Kindle failing would have stopped Amazon. However, Kindle doing well and Kindle Fire doing decently well, seems to have sparked Amazon into creating more and more hardware. A Kindle TV will hopefully light a fire under the competition and lead to some actual innovation and technological jumps in the set-top box and living room wars.