Amazon may use Google’s Android as the basis for the Fire OS software that powers Amazon Fire tablets, Fire TV devices, and Echo Show smart speaker (with a touchscreen display). But the company doesn’t let you stream Amazon Video to Chromecast devices and Amazon doesn’t sell Google products including the Chromecast media streamer or Google Home line of smart speakers.
So Google is fighting back: a company spokeperson tells CNET that Google will stop YouTube from working on Amazon Fire TV devices starting January 1st, 2018.
The company is also pulling the plug on YouTube for the Amazon Echo Show (for the second time since Amazon launched that device, actually).
It’s not entirely surprising that the two companies are fighting in this space: both Amazon and Google make and sell their own media streamers, smart speakers, and tablets (although Amazon’s clearly a much bigger player than Google in the tablet space at this point). And both have their own music and video streaming services, which are direct competitors to one another… although you already cannot use Google Play Music or Google Play Movies & TV on a Fire TV device, so the latest dispute is just over YouTube (which is probably more popular than either of those other services anyway).
So no, it’s not surprising that two companies competing for customers in similar niches are fighting. But it is frustrating for folks who just want to be able to use a single device to stream all their media.
It’s also a bit odd, because the YouTube service that runs on the Fire TV? It’s not really an app so much as a version of the youtube.com/leanback website. In a statement issued to The Verge, Amazon responded that “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”
There is a pretty simple solution though: don’t buy a Chromecast or an Amazon Fire TV. Get a Roku instead. Right now I’m not aware of any media streaming device that supports more online media sources than Roku’s products.
I picked up a Roku Streaming Stick+ when it was on sale on Black Friday, and I’m quite impressed. It may not be able to run native Android apps like Kodi the way my Amazon Fire TV Stick can. But it boots very, very quickly, streams media from Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, or Plex like a champ. And the model I picked up has a WiFi booster for stronger wireless performance, which is nice to have.
While the Streaming Stick+ isn’t on sale anymore, the cheaper 2017 Roku Streaming Stick is. You can pick one up for $40 this week, which is $10 off the list price).
Of course, now that Roku has started offering its own free (ad-supported) movie streaming channel, I wonder how long it will be before Google and/or Amazon decide Roku is a competitors and pull their apps from the platform.