Amazon yesterday launched its plug-and-play Fire TV Stick in India, priced as Rs 3,999, along-with a remote which allows voice control.
The company has also tied up with Airtel for providing 100 GB of data free to Airtel home users purchasing a Fire TV Stick. YOU Broadband subscribers will also get up to 240GB free data usage with 3 months validity. Note that Airtel has also tied up with Netflix for integrating video streaming onto its DTH boxes. Additionally, customers purchasing Fire TV Stick by May 31, 2017, will receive a ₹499 cash back to their Amazon Pay balance when they register for a Prime account.
With this launch, the company is addressing a major gap in its Amazon Prime Video service: prior to the launch of the device, users had no option to view Amazon Prime Video on their TV sets. Apart from Sony TVs, Amazon doesn’t have Prime Video apps for any smart TVs, and has consciously avoided providing applications to competing devices like Roku and Chromecast. In comparison, Netflix, Hotstar, Gaana etc are available on whichever platform that users want them. However, a device playing Amazon Prime Video can still be cast to a device which accepts casting: I’ve done that with Amazon Prime on a Roku. Thus, Amazon Prime Video, especially with its fairly limited (but reasonably priced) content library, is not reason enough to buy Fire TV Stick, even though it is the only one of two (the other being a remote, which Roku also has), since all the other apps are available on most other platforms anyway.
Moreover, despite there having been comparisons with Google’s Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick is no Chromecast: Fire TV Stick requires apps to be installed on it, in order to be played. Chromecast more than just a device: it allows users to cast apps, audio and video from their laptops, desktops and mobile phones to TV screens and speakers, which gives it a much larger scope than what Amazon Fire TV Stick allows: mirroring of a screen (which Chromecast also allows).
In addition, there’s a massive ecosystem that Google has, of Chromecast enabled apps which allow streaming of music, news, and now with Google Assistant, the ability to search and play content and use services, with services and devices talking to each other. Outside of the Google services ecosystem, there’s a large base of developers enabling casting to Chromecast/casting enabled devices. Chromecast is more of a protocol. Amazon’s appears to be a more tightly controlled ecosystem, and while it is going in the same direction with Alexa, it’s not lost on us that Echo and Amazon Fire TV Stick don’t yet talk to each other. There is a Fire TV Stick remote with Alexa enabled, but to me, that seems to be the only advantage it has over Chromecast: the phone has other uses beyond controlling what is being cast, and we’re a multi-screen-multi-tasking generation.
Still, given how aggressive Amazon is being in India, I won’t be surprised if Echo and/or Echo dot are launched in India before the year is out, while Google takes its own sweet time launching Home.
Amazon is bullish in India
Amazon has also been investing heavily in India; it recently received a wallet license from the RBI and has already diversified its business into sectors like grocery delivery, Video, and payments. Its core business segment, ecommerce, is already leading the market in terms of sales with a GMV of above $300 million as of August 2016, according to Forbes. In India, Amazon has invested close to Rs 2010 crore, with an overall commitment of Rs 7,000 crore in FY16.
Speaking at a recent call with analysts, the company’s CFO Brian Olsavsky said “It (India) is still very early (market)… We continue to develop new functionality for that country, whether it’s delivery, whether it’s seller features. We will continue to build our business there and continue to do a great job for both customers and sellers. We’re bullish on India longer-term and it’s early.” Globally, Amazon’s net profit stood at $749 million in Q4 2016, up 197.2% from $252 million the preceding quarter and 55% from $482 million in the same quarter last year.
(with inputs from Salman SH)