Amazon to challenge Apple, Roku with set-top device

It’s been a big week for Amazon.

Just days after the Seattle-based e-tailer announced it would hire 70,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon will challenge Apple, Roku and others with its own streaming set-top box.

If it’s true, the device could boost Amazon’s profile in the streaming video market and do for its Prime video library what Apple TV has done for iTunes.

Prime content – a rotating selection of movies and television shows – costs $79 per year. That’s cheaper than streaming giant Netflix, and Amazon customers get the added perk of free shipping.

Netflix remains the chief rival to Amazon Prime’s dominance in the streaming market, holding the advantage in total subscribers, acclaimed original programming and availability on streaming devices.

While both are available on everything from gaming consoles to iPods and iPads, Apple TV remains one of the lone holdouts for Amazon content.

By constructing its own streaming box, Amazon would be sending a shot across the bow of Apple, showing that it’s ready to challenge the company on every device in the home.

Amazon’s arrival in the marketplace could also put the squeeze on other set-top box companies, especially those who aren’t licensing their own content.

Roku, a set-top box developer based in Saratoga, California, retails its streaming video device for as low as $49 and boasts a library of apps (dubbed “channels”) from local news stations to premium cable companies.

The hockey puck-sized device is hip, for sure, but at the end of the day it serves the same function as a cable box.

With its recent investments in exclusive deals and original programming, Amazon aims to become a channel with its own box.

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