Apple TV vs. Fire TV: The Next Platform Battle

iOS shopping

Apple debuts a new “shopping” category on the app store for iPhone and iPad as reported by TechCrunch:

Apple today is debuting a new category to its App Store that will help consumers better locate mobile shopping applications. The “Shopping” category will be available worldwide, and will feature apps that span across omni-channel, auctions, price comparison, product reviews and more.

The really interesting part is the promotion of Apple Pay:

The new Shopping category will also help spotlight those apps that have adopted Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payments technology that allows iPhone owners to store their credit and debit cards on file within a mobile wallet. These cards can then be used with Touch ID to pay for purchases in retail stores at NFC-based payment terminals, as well as in mobile applications.

Launched just over a year ago, retailers and developers are already seeing Apple Pay’s impact, including a more than 2x increase in checkout rates.

It is a way to use the existing discovery paths on a platform to help promote a fairly new feature of the platform.

The next logical step for Apple is to bring this -the category and the promotion of Apple Pay- to its other platforms. Say, like the Apple TV.1 Apple TV owners with iPhones (read: almost all of them) will be able to easily buy with Apple Pay on apps on Apple TV.

This is the market context Amazon’s Fire TV, its most important device, is operating in. Apple, by virtue of being by far the most trusted consumer technology brand,2 has a head start with any new consumer facing platform. The Apple TV is no exception.

There are two aspects here:

  1. This highlights how important the Fire TV is for Amazon. Not just for offensive but also for defensive purposes. There are less than a hand full of form factors for ‘screen commerce’3 and hence opportunities to build and establish a platform at the access point: Laptop& Desktop (the same for our purposes here), smartphones, tablets and the smart TV. The first is still dominant but declining in importance. The second (smartphones) is the computer category with by far the biggest scale in the world. The third (tablets) is joined at the hip with the second due to the same input method. So were does Amazon stand here? The first is browserbased and trivial and Amazon owns it in its core markets. Amazon is at the whims of the platform providers in mobile. Having no smartphone OS with a meaningful ecosystem means its tablets are at a disadvantage compared to iPads and common Android tablets. And last not least there is the TV category. As we discussed there is an opportunity in the smart TV sector for Amazon. But there is also great risk here for Amazon. It needs a strong position as a platform provider here.
  2. On the flipside, this integration of discovery on the app/service side and the integration of a payment solution right there in the platform is a true opportunity for every online retailer, small and large. See also the list of cooperating online retailers at iMore providing special offers to promote this new category and mobile shopping with Apple Pay. A payment integration at the OS level is a way for smaller competitors to break through Amazon’s dominance (or Rakuten’s dominance in Japan or Alibaba’s dominance in China if Apple Pay were already available in those countries4). Something that is impossible on the browser based desktop internet.

Apple becoming a serious e-commerce enabler might in the long run also lead to Amazon embracing its marketplace / platform potential even more than it already does.

Shopping club Gilt Groupe presented its app for the Apple TV at the launch event of Apple TV. Given that Apple chooses different applications to showcase the range of possibilities for this new app platform it is an interesting choice that a shopping club was among them.

It is as clear a sign as any for what Apple wants and expects to flourish on the Apple TV.


  1. Currently there are only two app categories on the Apple TV: “Games” and “Entertainment”. Obviously a situation that is not going to last for very long. 
  2. Apple is in this position because it consistently produces products with a great user experience. Something Amazon needs to get better at. (Its Fire TV interface and its Fire tablet interface are not bad -in fact in direct comparison as here on Quartz they come in on second place- but they are not great either.) But when you don’t sell the devices for a profit but as a storefront your incentives might not be aligned with making great products, but just with making good enough ones. (Storefronts are cost centers.) It makes sense then that Amazon is trying to make the products as inexpensive as possible. It fits with Amazon’s own brand and if Amazon plays it right the Fire TV can become the ‘Android of TV’ and more. 
  3. ‘Screen commerce’ in contrast to brick and mortar retail and coming screen-less forms of e-commerce like the Dash Replenishment Service. 
  4. Apple Pay is currently available in the US and UK. 

6 comments

  1. […] been able to seal all the deals. Given that the Fire TV is Amazon’s most important device and Apple TV vs. Fire TV being the next platform battle how could Amazon not work on something similar? This is going to be a big […]

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  2. […] Apple TV vs. Fire TV: The Next Platform Battle […]

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