Changing Channels: With Fire TV, Amazon Enters the Blazing Set-Top Box Arena
Though it may be slightly later to the set-top box party, Amazon is looking to differentiate itself from competitors with a video streamer you can talk to.
The ecommerce giant unveiled its long-anticipated Fire TV during a press event in New York this morning -- on the very day that the $99 box will be available to ship.
And Amazon vice president Peter Larsen took the opportunity to knock the clunky navigation, laggy buffering and closed content ecosystems of competing boxes, as he described them -- including those of Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.
To address these issues, Amazon has amped up Fire TV’s specs with a quad-core processor for “three times the processing power of Apple TV and Roku” as well as four times as much memory.
To avoid excessive buffering, an Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) feature “dynamically adapts to your viewing habits,” Amazon said.
Perhaps most markedly, quipped Jeff Bezos in a letter on Amazon’s website, “Fire TV has voice search that actually works” -- as well as a zany commercial starring Gary Busey to illustrate how viewers can speak the names of titles, actors or genres into their remotes.
The thin, black, square, 4-inch box represents the latest foray by Amazon into the hardware space following the launch of its revolutionary Kindle family of devices (which also tout a fire-themed name.)
While Amazon already offers its own video-streaming service, Amazon Prime -- and develops proprietary content via Amazon Studios -- Fire TV’s content partners at launch time will include Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Showtime Anytime and many more, though notably not HBO GO.
In addition to 200,000 TV episodes and movies, Fire TV is also throwing over 100 games into the mix. A Fire Game Controller will be sold separately for $39.99, and both free and paid games will be available for an average price of $1.85.
Users can also stream “millions” of songs from services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and more.