If you happened to have hit Amazon's homepage today, you may have noticed a big note from CEO Jeff Bezos in the middle of the screen, pitching users to sign up to become Prime members.
As most Amazon users are aware, that $79 Prime membership gets you free two-day shipping on any item where Amazon offers "Free Shipping." But in an attempt to lure more folks into becoming Prime members, Amazon's pushing its "unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows." Bezos' note says Amazon is now adding 1,000 additional "free" Prime Instant movies and TVs shows along with more family-friendly fare like the last seven seasons of Sesame Street.
Currently, Amazon doesn't offer nearly as many free streaming movies as Netflix. Nor has it yet to offer iOS or Android apps for its video streaming service, like Netflix does (it does, however, offer plenty of ways to use the service on your TV). Amazon's Instant Video player is Flash-based, so you can stream video via a browser on an Android device (that supports Flash), but Apple's iOS devices do not support Flash. With strong indications that Amazon will introduce Android tablets this fall, we do suspect that at least an Android Amazon Instant Video app is just around the corner.
While Amazon's selection of free streaming videos doesn't nearly measure up to Netflix's--and probably won't for a long time--Amazon's Prime membership does cost less: Netflix charges $7.99 a month for its streaming-only service, which comes out to $95.88 or $15.89 more per year. Of course, the more folks Amazon signs up for Prime, the more likely those Prime members are to use Amazon to buy stuff. And ultimately, that's what this is all about.
For those waiting for a free Kindle in exchange for signing up for Prime, don't expect to see a deal like that this year--or anytime soon. But perhaps a $99 Kindle is in the offing this holiday season.