Amazon has announced a number of new platform expansions for its streaming media services today, including Cloud Player apps for Samsung Smart TVs and Roku set top boxes, as well as dedicated Amazon Instant Video apps for iPhone and iPod touch. The move indicates a strong push to get streaming media content on as many platforms as possible, which is the right move for a company now competing with giants like Apple and Google mostly on the strength of its media ecosystem.
The iPhone and iPod touch apps are a small screen update for the iPad app Amazon previously offered, delivering access to its library of Instant Video content, which includes over 140,000 titles. It’s a free download, and it means Amazon now covers the range of Apple mobile devices, at least in regions where Instant Video is available to Amazon shoppers. The Roku and Samsung Smart TV offerings provide access to music stored on Amazon’s Cloud Player, which can include both tracks purchased from Amazon’s own music store, and tracks matched or uploaded from a user’s own locally stored collection. Cloud Player was previously available on a variety of platforms, including Sonos Music Players, Mac, PC, Kindle Fire and Android.
Amazon is clearly serious about extending its platform reach, at least in terms of hardware partners and platforms. These apps will serve to add considerably to its potential mobile and at-home audience, reaching the iPhone and iPod touch’s combined worldwide user base which is likely well north of 50 million people at this point, taking into account sales to date and the likelihood that some, or even many of those users may have since moved on to different devices. Samsung Smart TVs and Roku also likely represent a significant combined audience, though I haven’t seen updated sales figures from Roku since mentioning 2.5 million devices sold at the end of 2011. Samsung announced 1.15 million HDTV sales in October alone, but it didn’t provide a breakdown of how many of those were “smart.”
Apple recently made a significant expansion of its own media system, albeit by a different route: the Mac maker opened iTunes stores in 56 new countries around the world in early December, and just this week rolled out new movie rental and purchase options to the majority of those marketplaces. Apple is taking a global approach to reaching new audiences with its content ecosystem, but keeping device and hardware pretty much in the family (though iTunes is available on Windows, and iTunes music content is DRM-free and thus not tied to any specific player). Amazon, by contrast, seems to want to focus on a few core markets first, with the U.S. at center, and make its content and services available through as many devices and OEM partners as possible.
So which approach wins? Based strictly on providing access to the greatest percentage of the world’s population, Apple is far ahead. But that’s likely an oversimplification of the problem, since Amazon’s strategy offers users more choice in how they get that content, meaning users are more likely to be able to purchase and access it on the devices they already have or want to buy. Amazon is also using its blanket approach to target markets with higher average revenue per user, so trying to reach greater saturation by being platform agnostic could ultimately reap big rewards.