Google v. Amazon: the War Is Escalating

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Google v. Amazon: the War Is Escalating


Hey, Amazon Fire TV owners: Do you like YouTube? Do you regularly watch YouTube through your Fire TV device? If so, you've probably already seen the ominous warning that now appears when you launch the YouTube app. For those who have been too busy holiday shopping to visit YouTube lately, the warning reads a little something like this:

Starting on 1/1/2018, the YouTube app will not be available on this device. You can continue to enjoy your favorite creators and videos in many other ways. Please visit https://goo.gl.LefFGe for a list of devices you can use.

Google-YouTube-message.jpg

That's right, Google recently announced that it is pulling YouTube off of all Amazon Fire TV devices at the beginning of 2018. To the casual onlooker, this may seem like a sudden and extreme move on Google's part, but in truth it's just the latest escalation in hostilities that began more than two years ago--when Amazon pulled Chromecast products from its hugely popular e-tail site. At least that's when the hostilities became public.

You might recall a story we ran back in November 2015 titled Is Amazon Suffering an Identity Crisis?. At the time, the company had just introduced its second-generation, 4K-capable Fire TV player; and, in what many considered to be purely a competitive move, Amazon decided to pull all Apple TV and Chromecast products from Amazon.com. Amazon's explanation was that those particular products didn't "interact well" with the Prime Video service. In other words, since Amazon had not been able to secure deals with Google or Apple to get Prime Video support into those devices, the company decided to stop selling them. (For the record, Amazon continued to sell competitors like Roku, Xbox, and PlayStation that did support the Prime Video app.)

Here we are, over two years later, and Amazon.com still doesn't officially sell Chromecast products. Search for Chromecast on the site, and you know what the number one result is: the $35 Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Since that initial skirmish, the two companies have grown even more fiercely competitive in another product category: voice control. Not surprisingly, you won't find any Google Home products on Amazon.com, either. Search the phrase "Google Home," and you're conveniently directed to the Echo and Echo Dot.

To top it off, Amazon recently pulled several Nest products off of the site. That seems to be the straw that broke the camel's back. On December 5, Google issued the following statement on the matter:

We've been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other's products and services. But Amazon doesn't carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn't make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest's latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.

Oh, and just a few days ago, it was announced that Amazon has acquired one of Nest's smart-home rivals, Blink.

In fairness to Amazon, it's not like Google is selling Fire TV products or Echo Dots on its website, nor would anyone expect them to do so. That goes back to the identity-crisis issue we first wrote about two years ago. Amazon is still trying to be both a major retail site and a creator of products/services, which leads to these kinds of sticky conflicts.

Interestingly, while Amazon's battle with Google is heating up, the company seems to have finally made peace with Apple. Apple TV products are once again being sold on Amazon.com (although, as I write this, they are all out of stock, perhaps due to the holiday), and earlier this month the Amazon Video app finally made its way onto the Apple TV platform. Amazon and Roku streaming devices consistently outsell the Apple TV, and perhaps that has humbled Apple enough to finally sit down with Amazon and make some deals that will be mutually beneficial for both companies. (Apple has also made nice with VUDU in order to make its streaming device more universally appealing.)

Time will tell if Amazon and Google can achieve a similar détente. At least one report I've seen from USA Today says Amazon has confirmed that it will begin selling Chromecast products again, but the products do not yet show up in search results on the site.

In the meantime, Fire TV owners have one week to enjoy the dedicated YouTube app before it disappears. The good news is, a few days ago Firefox announced that its updated Web browser is now available through the Fire TV platform, and users will be able to access YouTube through that browser. So at least Fire TV owners will have a workaround while Amazon and Google duke it out.

Additional Resources
The Complicated Choice Between Streaming and Downloading at HomeTheaterReview.com.
Apple Makes Waves in the 4K Market at HomeTheaterReview.com.
Is Cord Cutting Really Killing Traditional Pay TV? at HomeTheaterReview.com.


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