With the field of streaming-media devices growing ever more crowded, prepare for one more.
On Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT (calculate in your time zone) at a press event in New York, Amazon is expected to unveil a device that streams media like video through TV sets via the Internet. The event will not have a live video stream (ironic, yes?), but CNET will liveblog all the details for you as they happen.
Though Amazon hasn't provided any hints about the event other than that it will be an update on its video business, recent reports suggest the company is pursuing a streaming dongle similar to Google'sand Roku's more recent . Another possibility is the launch of a along the lines of YouTube. But reports that Amazon is pursuing a full-fledged Web TV service with licensed whole channels, and an ad-supported free video service somewhat along the lines of Hulu, have been denied by the company.
As the Web's biggest retailer, Amazon's future doesn't ride on any single new product line among the gigantic store that it operates, but the value in a streaming device, much like the Kindle family of tablets and e-readers, would come not only from actual sales of the product but also attachment revenue from media purchases and Prime memberships.
Such a device would also give Amazon an answer to one of the most popular electronics in its store much of last year: Chromecast. Google's $35 streaming dongle sat atop the most-popular products list in Amazon's electronics department for a large part of the year, and there it remains even now, as of publication.
But notoriously opaque Amazon makes it difficult to tease out just how much opportunity or risk it has at stake with a streaming device. The vast majority -- nearly two-thirds -- of Amazon's business comes from selling electronics and "general merchandise," its catch-all term for all the blenders and backpacks and bracelets it offers through its site. Though the company does separate out the amount of revenue it makes from media (about 30 percent), it doesn't specify how much it makes on its own products like Kindle or Amazon Prime memberships or how much outside manufacturers like Google contributed to its total sales haul.
If Amazon follows its typical M.O. in hardware -- Kindle -- the device will be low-cost compared with competitors and is likely to include a discount and extra benefits for Amazon Prime members.
Amazon Prime is the e-commerce giant's $99-a-year subscription service, best known and most loved for its free two-day shipping, which often results in Prime members spending more money with Amazon than non-members. Less known is that Prime's membership also includes access to Prime Instant Video, Amazon's Netflix competitor complete with exclusives to shows like "Downton Abbey" and a growing slate of original series. Prime members with a Kindle also may access a "lending library" of books on their Amazon tablet.
Separate from Prime, Amazon also operates a store for digital video and music, offering TV and movie downloads in the same vein as iTunes.
CNET will bring you full coverage from the event. You can also tune into our live call-in show starting at 7:30 a.m. PT with Brian Tong, Donald Bell, and Ashley Esqueda.