Amazon made a bad Prime Video port for Apple TV and it needs a do-over

Amazon Prime Video has, at long last, come to Apple TV. But after years of withholding the product and months of waiting after it was originally announced, customers of the service weren’t treated to an amazing tvOS video experience. Instead, we’ve been given what appears to be a rushed and rather callous port of Amazon’s (OpenGL-based?) cross-platform app. One that feels lowest common denominator, designed to run on any and all boxes and panels, utterly alien to tvOS and off-putting to the typically fussy, highly-engaged users who own an Apple TV.

How in the hell did we get here?

Halt and catch Fire

Amazon Prime Video launched as Amazon Unbox back in September of 2006. The same year Apple originally announced the OS X-lobo’d product then known as iTV but which would ship as Apple TV in 2007.

In March of 2012 Apple TV was rebooted with a new, iOS-based box and in addition to iTunes content, included third-party apps. At least, partner apps that used the Apple TV markup language-based templates. That included Netflix streaming but not Amazon Instant Video.

Over the next few years, more and more services would partner up and come online. But still not Amazon. Given the variety, it seems likely Apple would have welcomed Amazon to the fold. Amazon is a retailer at heart, though, and offering the convenience of easy streaming to existing customers might not have been enough for the company — not if they couldn’t sell those customers more.

In April of 2014, Amazon launched its own Fire TV streaming box, which, of course, had Amazon Prime Video content. Over the years, It also made versions for the Roku box and game consoles including Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation..

September of 2015 saw Apple TV rebooted again. The box got a little bigger, the platform got rebranded as tvOS, and Apple launched an App Store to go with it. Previous partner apps like Netflix had over seven months to build new, tvOS apps, or to stick with TVML apps. When Apple TV and tvOS shipped, almost every major video app in the U.S. was there. Except for Amazon Prime Video.

Even when Amazon Prime Video went global in 2016, it wouldn’t go to Apple TV.

Given how many video apps showed up on tvOS, it again seems like there was no issue on Apple’s end. It was all about Amazon.

Amazon did create an Amazon Prime Video app for iOS, so Apple TV owners could AirPlay from their iPhone or iPad to watch Prime Video on Apple TV. But it took two devices instead of one and introduced complexity. It wasn’t the experience any Amazon Prime Video customer wanted.

Then something utterly confounding happened. At the 2016 Code Conference, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said:

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