Amazon Bans Sale Of Competing Apple TV, Chromecast Devices To 'Avoid Customer Confusion'

from the heaping-piles-of-bullshit dept

Amazon has come up with a rather ingenious way to give its own Fire TV streaming video devices a leg up in the market place: stop selling major competing products. In a letter sent this week to the company’s marketplace sellers, Amazon announced that it would no longer be allowing new listings for either the Chromecast or Apple TV starting today, and that existing retail stock of both products would be discontinued at the end of the month. Google of course just unveiled two new versions of the Chromecast, which has been historically outselling Amazon’s own streaming devices.

Amusingly, Amazon unloads what has to be one of the larger piles of ambiguous bullshit in defense of an anti-competitive position seen in some time:

“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said in the e-mail. “It?s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”

Hilarious. Except it’s up to developers to embed Chromecast support into their services and apps, and both Google and Apple publish open software development kits that allows any application to be utilized on both devices. In other words, it’s Amazon’s choice that Chromecast and Apple TV won’t play nicely with Amazon Prime Instant Streaming. It has nothing to do with the devices not “interacting well” with Amazon’s services. Bloomberg even helps prop up this nonsensical explanation further by repeating the idea that Prime Video “doesn?t run easily on rival?s devices.”

Meanwhile, on what planet exactly are you “avoiding customer confusion” by suddenly removing access to hugely popular, competing products?

Apparently other streaming competitors like the Roku and game consoles have yet to see Amazon’s ire and will remain sold, for now. Obviously none of this is the end of the world, since Amazon controls just 1% of the overall retail market and these devices can be bought at a long-list of retail alternatives, including Apple and Google themselves. Still it’s an utterly-idiotic decision that’s sure to invite antitrust scrutiny at worst, and an absolute shit storm of negative PR at best.

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Companies: amazon, apple, google

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Comments on “Amazon Bans Sale Of Competing Apple TV, Chromecast Devices To 'Avoid Customer Confusion'”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Re: What about smart tvs?

Smart TVs are not so smart.

That “smart” part of the TV will be obsolete in three years. While the TV part of it will be good for ten years.

Within three years the terms of service on that “smart” part of the TV will change without consulting you.

I like to get my set top box from where I choose, independently of the TV. I can easily replace the cheap set top box if it becomes hostile to use.

Finally, relevant to this topic, the way the “smart” players are playing does not give me confidence yet that I’m willing to commit to a long term set top box — especially one built in to the TV — that might be spying on me, if not today, then in a few years from now.

What if the maker of my Smart TV decides not to let me watch programs on internet service X or Y?

I’ll just take a “dumb” TV with a large order of HDMI inputs please.

Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Game consoles should be fine.

> Apparently other streaming competitors like the Roku and game consoles have yet to see Amazon’s ire and will remain sold, for now.

If I read it correctly, they’re not carrying devices that don’t work with their service. I watch Amazon Video on my Xbox just fine. And going by Roku’s website, Amazon Video works there, too. So they wouldn’t block those for that reason.

Does it mean they could decide to drop products that also support competitors (regardless of whether they also support Amazon Video)? That would be a bigger can of worms.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: really..

Sure they can.

They can also stop other people from selling their stock through Amazon, because reasons.

They can also be called out on their bullshit, whether they stock a competitive product or not. People may also freely analyze and comment on stupid business practices. I know these concepts are extremely new and disruptive, as is publishing such commentary, but in time the world will grow accustomed to it.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: really..

Amazon can stock whatever it chooses to.

But one reason Amazon has been one of the first places I go to is because they carry just about anything and everything under the sun.

Now I suddenly have to do a double take and have second thoughts about anything I might buy on Amazon. Is Amazon trying to lure me into something and not show me all of the options.

I used to trust Amazon. Now I don’t. Wow that was quick.


Re: Re: A strange metamorphosis.

I would say that anyone would have a great deal of difficulty writing anything for the AppleTV as it isn’t an open platform. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry could write an Amazon app for the Roku if they wanted to. They could even put it up as a beta release.

Pretending that Apple is anything like that is a bit silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does Google sell Amazon FireTV or tablets? Does Apple?

I’m not sure I’d trust Google or Apple to be open with Amazon about how to best support streaming video plus the Amazon user interface. There are all kinds of ways of being obstructionist in software support.

But how does it matter? If I wanted to buy AppleTV I’d be on the Apple site. Same for Chromecast. Because that way if the product failed to work I’d expect to have an easier time organizing a refund or getting troubleshooting help.

I don’t see the fuss.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Does Google sell Amazon FireTV or tablets? Does Apple?”

Are Google and Apple retailers for anyone else’s products? Is this apple indeed an orange?

“But how does it matter? If I wanted to buy AppleTV I’d be on the Apple site. Same for Chromecast.”

But what if you don’t know which one you want, and you’d like to be able to compare them before purchase? Most consumers often aren’t tech savvy enough to know. So, if they normally use Amazon for purchases, they’ll default to Amazon’s products even more than they used to now that they have to go somewhere else to check out competitors.

“I don’t see the fuss.”

Because you choose not to, or you’re using one of those “it doesn’t bother me personally therefore it doesn’t matter to anyone” fallacies.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Google drops Amazon search hits

I think they’d do better to play fair and to leave hits in place.

The reason Google became the synonym for web-searching is because they would include everything and organize it according to what you were most likely to want.

At the point they stop including everything, they cease becoming the go-to search engine.

Already they’re losing that position due to their decision to omit torrent sites, alleged hate sites and sites related to contraband (generally for purposes of legal self defense, but it is still impacting their userbase).

So yeah, Amazon being petty is a good reason for Google to not respond in kind.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:


I used to use Amazon’s streaming service. They recently stopped supporting my smart TV, despite the frankly-negligible cost of doing so, but “helpfully” offered me a discount on one of their worthless and unwanted FireTV sticks.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise they’re just trying to sell me crap I don’t want, so I cancelled my subscription. I know when I’m being sold shite and Amazon can fuck right off.

This appears to be more of the same. All it does is prove beyond a doubt that FireTV is unmarketable bollocks that nobody wants.

Fuck off, Amazon, we’re not that stupid.

John85851 (profile) says:

Stopping customer service

I wonder if this is more about cutting back on customer service for a device they don’t own. I have Amazon Prime and AppleTV and the way to watch Prime shows is to start in on the iPhone, then click the button to send it to AppleTV. Easy, right?

But there have been a few times when it hasn’t worked, so I called Amazon. Their stock response was that they support AppleTV… yet they support the iPhone which can play video *over* AppleTV. Basically, their customer service rep was helpless to figure out a solution.

I then did the usual: I unplugged the AppleTV unit, plugged it back in, and then it worked fine.

So if Amazon doesn’t sell AppleTV, they can punt the question and tell people to talk to Apple… who will tell them to to talk to Amazon about Prime Video… and back and forth.

Glenn says:

So, Amazon customers only want a device in order to watch Prime Video (or any Amazon Instant Video)? I guess those would be the only ones who might want a Fire TV thingy. Personally, though, I watch Netflix (with my Roku); and I’d expect this to be true of most Amazon customers–other services being of more interest than Amazon’s. I’m pretty sure this move won’t affect Fire TV in such a way that Amazon will sell more of them, but it will certainly reduce (to nil) any of that revenue from sales of Apple TV and Chromecast. There might even be a noticeable reduction due to people taking all of their streaming/techy business elsewhere. Who wants to deal with heavy-handed retailers.

PaulT (profile) says:

“It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”

Yep, so this is where you do what Netflix, Hulu, etc. do and develop apps for all major OSes to enable this… Especially since many people will be buying the new devices for those devices first and for the services they support second.

It’s also worth noting that Apple TVs have not had an app store before the new edition. They had no problem selling devices they literally could not add functionality to without working with Apple on the next iOS update, but now it’s a problem when they could make an app themselves. Interesting…

“Bloomberg even helps prop up this nonsensical explanation further by repeating the idea that Prime Video “doesn’t run easily on rival’s devices.” “

Funny… I know people who seem to be running an Android app for the UK service quite fine on their Google tablets. I wonder what’s stopping them from letting Chromecast be able to access this since their own product is also Android based.

Violynne (profile) says:

Just one more reason why my shopping at Amazon continues to decline.

Once the holidays are over (wife wants the two-day shipping during present buying), we’re canceling Amazon Prime.

It’s just too damn confusing to know why a retailer don’t want to retail.

I don’t want to shop at a store who blocks products on a “just because” basis.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It’s just too damn confusing to know why a retailer don’t want to retail.”

Well, that part’s easy. They stopped being a pure retailer a long time ago and are now a hardware manufacturer, software developer and subscription service provider along with their retail duties.

They’ve simply decided that the money to be gained from greater sales elsewhere is likely to be higher than the loss of reputation and customers that this causes in their retail sales.

PRMan (profile) says:

Not as bogus as you think

‘Prime Video “doesn’t run easily on rival’s devices.”‘

This isn’t as bogus as you think, Mike. Amazon’s DRM uses Flash and Chromecast and AppleTV keep refusing to add it at Amazon’s request, because they know Flash is horrible and want it to die.

So there is some truth to that part of the story. Of course, Amazon could write another different DRM for those two devices, just like Google has supported Flash, MP4 and VP8/9 for YouTube videos.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Not as bogus as you think

Even if Prime video didn’t work on any of those devices at all, it’s still completely bogus reasoning to say that means Amazon should not sell those devices. If Amazon is really that concerned about “consumer confusion”, that can be addressed by adding a big warning message to the listings for those items.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Not as bogus as you think

That doesn’t exactly change the central point of the article – which is that Amazon have chosen to not sell these devices rather than address the source of the “confusion”. The solution is still in Amazon’s hands even if the cause makes the solution non-trivial.

The fact that other manufacturers refuse to compromise the stability and security of their own devices to make Amazon’s life easier is hardly a negative point against anyone other than Amazon. It might not be their fault that content providers insist on DRM, but it’s their decision as to how it was to be implemented.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Prime Video Is False To Amazon's Higher Values

I’ve been having some curious difficulties with Amazon for the last several months. They have changed their system in some way which makes it impossible for me to place orders. The system gives problems only when logging on, or during the checkout phase, and never while merely browsing through the listings. It is difficult to determine what the cause is, in technical terms. Amazon’s highly arrogant support representative in India thought it was the dial-up connection speed, but that may be incorrect. However, what I suspect is happening is that the video games and what-not are coming to inform the construction of the Amazon website, and they have stopped worrying about backward compatibility. They are getting locked into the idea that someone who does not have an expensive video-game computer and a 25 m-bit connection is not a real customer, that kind of thing, because the only kind of customer who counts is the one who is downloading movies and playing video games. I do not have, and do not want, the equipment, internet connections, etc., to play the neatest new video games. “Walled garden” entertainment systems leave me completely cold and unmoved.

My sister agreed to place orders on my behalf, on her Apple I-thingy. So I click through the Amazon website on a non-logged-in basis, collect URL’s, and send them in an e-mail to my sister, who puts in the order for such mundane articles as office (desktop) computer parts, plastic forks, and bathroom scrubbing brushes. Of course, Amazon may decide to make it impossible to place an order on an Apple I-thingy. I came up with the work-around because, even though Amazon had done some stupid things, I still felt they were worth salvaging. My attitude is:

“Bad Amazon! Bad! Bad Dog! Baaad! Bad Jeff Bezos! Bad. Baaad!”

What I want from Amazon, first and foremost, is an efficient means of purchasing used/remaindered/distressed stuff, primarily books, but, secondarily, certain types of computer items where compatibility is the main issue (eg. printers), and I affirmatively want something manufactured ten years ago. Beyond that, I want something pretty much equivalent to Target, which doesn’t involve three hours and a forty-dollar taxicab fare to get a hundred dollars worth of household sundries. I used to buy computer stuff from Tiger Direct and Cyberguys, over the telephone, but I now get things from Amazon, instead of going on to NewEgg, because I am not really pushing the limits on computers anymore. I am now getting basic computer supplies like blank CD’s and DVD’s, memory sticks, and printer paper at the Walgreen’s on the corner.

There are some rather weird specialty items, like egg powder, which is practically a Mormon religious item. The Latter-Day-Saints are supposed to keep a year’s supply of food on hand, as a memory of the time when they were penniless fugitives, the time of Nauvoo. Of course in Brigham Young’s day, self-sufficiency meant having a cow and a chicken coop, like everyone else. In a nineteenth-century city like Detroit or Chicago, every moderately prosperous Irish or Polish workingman had a vegetable garden, and a cow, and a chicken coop, and a pig to eat up the kitchen garbage and turn it into ham and bacon. The livestock provided fertilizer for the vegetable garden. That was simply practical economics. The kind of people who bought fresh groceries at the store were the kind of people who employed servants to clean their houses, do their cooking, and look after their children. The Mormon difference consisted in keeping enough grain on hand to feed the beasts for a year. With the transition from rural to suburban living, where everyone started to live like the upper classes, only with machines instead of servants, the Mormons have re-interpreted the obligation of maintaining a year’s food supply to mean keeping supplies of powdered milk and powdered eggs, along with the more usual canned goods. You can get powdered milk in any grocery store, but you can’t get powdered eggs so easily. By force of circumstance, powdered eggs have come to symbolize the Mormon willingness to move out into the wilderness to worship in their own way.

All religions have food rites or food restrictions. Food is so basic an experience that no religion can avoid it. So there are companies in Utah which produce powdered eggs, and sell them through local stores in Utah, and traditionally sold them mail-order via church newspapers, and now, of course, by Amazon. It works more or less the same way as Kosher food. The iconic piece of Kosher food is a piece of Matzoh bread. Same principle. I get most of my spices from a mail order firm down in Texas, but down there, they are probably Baptists. Baptists and Mormons _really_ don’t get on. Before 9/11, cases of religious discrimination, forced indoctrination in the public schools, etc., practically always turned out to be Baptist vs. Mormon. The result is that the spice company in Texas, which carries some very obscure items such as powdered tomato, not to mention dozens of blended spice mixes from various parts of Asia, does not want to carry powdered eggs.

In a way, I think that the powdered eggs represent Amazon at its best, rather like a United States Postman carrying ten different magazines in his satchel, all ideologically incompatible with each other, and delivering all these magazines to their respective subscribers, without fear or favor. Amazon took the view that, obviously, powdered eggs are wholesome food. They won’t hurt anyone. They are good for children, so Amazon doesn’t have to collect IDs, the way it would have to do for tobacco or booze. The powdered eggs fall within Amazon’s normal economic shipment parameters, the same as spices or coffee, so there isn’t going to be a problem with stuff getting damaged in transit. Therefore it is none of Amazon’s business how people use powdered eggs in religious rites and sacraments, or what the food is believed to symbolize.

The new emphasis on Walled Garden entertainment media represents a turning away from this kind of value. The written word has always been democratic. Anyone willing to spend the time has always been able to write a book. In recent years, the internet and websites have made it highly practical to publish and distribute a book without money changing hands. With so many people willing to give their books away, book-selling is ultimately a doomed enterprise. Amazon is moving away from that, towards the idea that it should expensively produce its own television shows, which everyone who wants to shop at Amazon will be expected to watch.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”

Wow, that IS some transparent bullshit excuse for them to only sell their own device

This sets a precedence, ban this today, what will they ban tommorow……they need to rethink their stance on just what should, be a good reason to ban a selling item

From a prime member, how long…..we’ll see

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