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Will Amazon's New TV Box Be Cheap or Free?

His rivals are selling theirs for as little as $35. But Jeff Bezos hasn't given away hardware -- yet.

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

We know some important things about the streaming video gadget Amazon is introducing today:

  • Like Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, it will give users access to Amazon’s own video service, as well as third-party app/services like Netflix.
  • Like the Fire machines, it will run on a “forked” version of Android.
  • It’s going to compete with a bunch of devices that also make it easier to move streaming video to your TV, like the Apple TV, Roku’s gadgets and Google’s Chromecast.
  • Amazon has been working on a device like this for a while. Last year, it had planned on rolling one out before Christmas, but it shelved those plans.

I don’t know if the Amazon video doohickey is going to be a stick or a box, though my educated guess is that it will be a box. But I don’t really care what it looks like, and my hunch is that most potential buyers/users won’t either, as long as it works.

Which leaves one thing that I’m really interested in learning about today: How much is this going to cost?

Unless Amazon adds a lot of bells and whistles to its mystery box — like a full-fledged game controller — it’s reasonable to assume it won’t sell for more than $99, which is what Apple TV and the top of the line Roku box go for. But when Google introduced Chromecast at $35 a pop last summer, that price seemed to interest a lot of people.

So why not go the next step, and simply make the thing free for anyone with a $99 Amazon Prime subscription?

That’s what Amazon is already doing with its Prime Instant video service, of course. And Jeff Bezos is spending more than a billion dollars a year on that giveaway, just so he can convince more people to sign up for his real subscription service, which gives them other goodies like free two-day shipping and encourages them to buy more stuff from Amazon.

So throwing in a relatively low-cost box — so it can make Prime Instant video more appealing, so it can make the main Prime service more appealing — seems like a no-brainer to Internet geniuses like me. Especially since many people don’t know that Prime Instant video exists, even if they have access to it.

The best argument against this theory is that we’ve heard it before — every time Bezos rolls out a new Kindle line. Surely, the Internet geniuses predict, this time Bezos is going to give his tablets away. After all — he doesn’t care about profits, right?

But it’s 2014, and if you want to buy a new Kindle from Amazon, it’s going to cost you a minimum of $69. And that’s if you’re willing to see ads from Amazon on the thing. Just because Bezos could give his hardware away doesn’t mean he’s going to.

Still. Wouldn’t it be cool if he did? We’ll find out in a few hours.

This article originally appeared on

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