Are Streaming Set-Top Boxes Becoming an Over-Saturated Market?
As many of you may have seen, Amazon has recently entered the streaming box market with their new Fire TV. Popular competitors already existing in this market are the popular Roku, Apple TV, WD TV, as well as the many consoles and smart TVs that have the functionality built-in as a side feature.
To help give themselves an edge on the competition, Amazon has included the option for a gamepad and signed with companies such as EA and Ubisoft, but is that really enough? This basically puts the device in the same spot as the Ouya. Even though the Fire seems like it has been done better than any of these small consoles, its focus is not on gaming — it does not even come with the controller!
Where Will This Lead?
At first, this might not seem like a big deal. The market will become populated and that will lead to a wide variety of selection for customers, like the current state of the cell phone market. The problem with that theory is that, unlike cell phones, these devices have very few differences and are similar in most ways.
On top of that, it is not just set-top boxes that are releasing this technology, the devices that feature Netflix, Facebook, and other services as side features are also being added to the market.
If the market continues to head in the direction that it is now, then one day people will have some form of set-top box (Roku, Fire TV, etc) plugged into a smart TV that also runs the same services. On top of that, many people, especially all the gamers on this site, will have a console plugged into the TV that also has all of these features.
When they first released, these small set-top boxes seemed like a great idea, but that was before smart TVs became common. If smart TVs take over as fast as flat screens took over tube TVs, then these devices will be completely redundant in just a couple years.
What is the Solution?
Within the last couple years, companies like Apple and Roku entered this market at the perfect time; however, companies like Amazon might be a little too late. Just like when they first released the box, Roku has recently made a smart turn that many of these companies should be following.
If you had to choose just one device on your TV stand to have support for all of these services, then the obvious choice should be your TV. That way there is no messing with the inputs or anything, no matter what you are doing you can quickly jump to YouTube or Netflix.
It would still make sense for gaming consoles to have these features, because that is just a side feature and not the core reason for buying it, but buying an entire box just for the features will not be justified when all new TVs come with the features as a standard.
This is the exact move by Roku which I am referring to. The company announced at the beginning of the year that they will be releasing a flat screen TV in the United States. If companies like Amazon want to get their foot into the living room then I highly recommend they consider the same step.
Are You Saying I Shouldn't Buy a Streaming Device?
The short answer to this question is "no." In more detail, the market for these devices is definitely not dead. When a customer buys one of these devices, they spend around $100 and keep it for as long as they wish; however, when a company enters the market for the first time, they spend a good chunk of money on designing, developing, and licensing for their new device.
Spending the money to buy one of these boxes is in every way justified, because you can plug it into a normal TV and enjoy hours of use out of it. Even if you get a smart TV in the near future, the odds are you will still have at least one non-smart TV (would that be a dumb TV?) for quite a while.