Amazon said Thursday that it will no longer sell streaming media devices that don't support its Prime Video streaming service, including the Apple TV and Google's Chromecast.
The move, which will start Oct. 29, is just the latest step in the tech industry's increasingly intense battle to control customers' living rooms.
Amazon will still sell other Prime Video-compatible streaming devices such as the Roku line of products, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation and its own Fire TV, calling them "excellent choices" for consumers. And there are, of course, other places where consumers can pick up both Apple and Google's devices, including directly from the tech giants themselves. But as the world's largest online retailer, it does cut off a major sales channel.
"Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime," the company said in a statement. "It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion." (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Google declined to comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move comes as the tech industry focuses on serving customers more content. Amazon has highlighted its catalog of streaming video as a main component of the Prime program. But the company has been pushing its video offerings of late, trying to expand its library and become a competitor to Netflix and Hulu. The company has also won critical acclaim for its original series "Transparent." Last month, the firm signaled it was moving ahead with this media push, releasing new versions of its Fire TV set-top box and streaming stick.
That came hot on the heels of Apple's announcement that it will release a revamped version of the Apple TV box later this month. Apple is also expected to release a video streaming service of its own, and Variety has reported that the Cupertino, Calif. firm is also planning on making original shows. Google, meanwhile, gave its $35 Chromecast a makeover earlier this week, showing that it's also still interested bringing online video and more to the largest screen in the house.
Amazon has stopped selling products before, but often in response to consumer protests. For example, it no longer sells Confederate flag merchandise, as well as some more realistic looking gun toys. This, however, appears to be the first time Amazon has stopped selling products because they don't fit in with its own services.
So why sharpen the knives now? "Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are all bumping up against each other as their businesses are becoming more and more similar," said Scott Galloway, a professor who teaches marketing and branding at New York University's Stern School of Business. He noted that Amazon's move is not the first barb these firms have thrown at each other; Apple's move to block ads on its phones, for example, was seen as a way to undercut Google's advertising business.
Yet while Amazon may have decided that it's no longer going to help Apple and Google, Galloway said it is a departure from what the firm has always stood for: customer service. "Amazon always had a laser-focus on being consumer driven," he said. "And this is not a consumer-driven strategy."
Amazon has clashed with Apple and Google in the past. Amazon, for example, blocks customers from making purchases through some of its mobile apps in order to avoid having to give Google and Apple a share of the sales. There is also no official way to stream videos through Amazon Prime apps to a Chromecast or Apple TV. There are unofficial ways for customers to this. Google also has an open developer toolkit for the Chromecast that would make it possible to do so.