Inc., the world’s largest online retailer, plans to release a television set-top box that would stream video over the Internet into customers’ homes, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The device, due later this year, will connect to televisions, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about it. It will also provide access to Amazon’s expanding video services, which include the Amazon Video on Demand store.

Amazon would move into closer competition with Apple Inc., which sells its own set-top box called Apple TV. The device would also compete with products from Roku Inc. and Boxee Inc., as well as gaming consoles from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. that deliver video programming. Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is pushing the company into a broadening array of hardware, including tablets, electronic readers and a planned smartphone.

“It would certainly make some sense,” said Jason Krikorian, a general partner at venture-capital firm DCM, and the former co-founder of Sling Media, who does not have knowledge of Amazon’s plans. “They have a ton of content, an existing billing relationship with millions of users.”

Many competing set-top boxes already give access to Amazon’s video catalog. By building its own device, Seattle- based Amazon can put its content more directly in center of consumers’ living rooms, while giving developers another reason to create applications for Amazon’s digital ecosystem.

A representative of Amazon declined to comment.

The set-top box is being developed by Amazon’s Lab126 division, based in Cupertino, California — the city that’s also home to Apple. Lab126 has toyed with building connected television devices for several years, the people familiar with the effort said.

Amazon could also draw on its marketplace of downloadable apps, as well as its “reputation for solid hardware products and a terrific channel through which to promote the product,” Krikorian said.