Google’s decision to block YouTube content was a real kick in the pants to Amazon as it got ready to launch its Echo Show device. After all, YouTube videos are the perfect content for the device and its smaller counterpart, the Echo Spot. The small screen sizes mean the products aren’t really suitable for watching content that’s longer than, say 10 minutes or so.
Earlier this week, the site TV Answer Man spotted an interesting Amazon filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that could point to the next steps forward for the company. The trademark application could just as easily turn out to be nothing, of course, but it’s an interesting bit of insight into where Amazon’s head might be in the midst of this streaming service cold war.
The application highlights two names, “AmazonTube” and “OpenTube,” along with descriptions that hedge pretty closely to YouTube’s bread and butter. Admittedly, the application is pretty broad (as these things usually are) and covers a LOT of ground, but certain bits certainly jump out to the casual observer. For instance, there’s the bit where it highlights a service that “Provid[es] non-downloadable pre-recorded audio, visual and audiovisual works via wireless networks on a variety of topics of general interest.”
It’s a leap to suggest that the company is planning an out-and-out YouTube competitor. For one thing, the company has been there, done that, with Amazon Video Direct, a still-active service that lets publishers upload videos viewable by Prime subscribers. But whether or not the company opts to go directly head to head with YouTube, the suggested names do feel like Amazon’s rattling the cage a bit and setting itself up for a likely legal challenge from Google over a name that hedges a bit too close to its insanely popular video platform.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and don’t expect to hear much back unless this whole thing ever becomes officially official, but as has been pointed out, Amazon has already registered the domains AlexaOpenTube.com, AmazonAlexaTube.com and AmazonOpenTube.com, because, screw it, it’s Amazon.
Ultimately, there’s a good chance this is the sign of the company working through all of its options. The Show and Spot will pull short videos from Amazon’s library when you ask for Alexa to, say, “play me a cat video,” but odds are pretty good it will be one of those weird pieces of content the company snaps up in bulk, like a 22-minute video of squirrels made for (and potentially by) cats, rather than the sort of thing we humans are looking for.
The bummer in all of this for the consumer is it could well mark a return to walled-garden content on smart speakers, where videos are chosen not because they’re the best answer for a given query, but because they’re delivered on a proprietary platform. And from the looks of the way things have been going, both Amazon and Google deserve a share of the blame if that comes to pass.