Amazon has just announced its Apple TV competitor, dubbed ‘Fire TV’. You can buy it now from Amazon.com for $99. The product roughly resembles an Apple TV in size and shape, but is thinner by a few millimetres and has square (rather than rounded) edges. Spec-wise, Amazon claims it is three times as powerful as Apple TV or Roku. It runs on a quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The fireTV can stream video at 1080p over HDMI, alongside Dolby Digital surround sound.

Input comes via a Bluetooth remote that features a five-way directional pad and some ancillary buttons. The remote has an inbuilt microphone, so you can speak show titles to have it automatically search for them.

The UI is split: a row of content types down the left and a detail view on the right. Shows and films are presented as big tiles, with a focus on big images. Amazon offers recommendations of films as well as the traditional categories for ‘recently added’ and ‘new releases’ movies. Whispersync remembers your place in a film or TV show, so you can return at any time. This also syncs with Kindle Fire tablets.

Interestingly, Amazon is touting an ‘ASAP’ section. Amazon will predict what shows you want to watch and automatically queues them up in the background. This emulates a more traditional lean-back TV experience. There is also a ‘FreeTime’ section, which is a kids-specific section collating kids content; this hosts a ton of free content from channels like Nickelodeon and PBS.

The Fire TV supports a myriad of apps from approved vendors, like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, YouTube and others. fireTV is based on Android, so developers can port their smartphone and tablets apps over to the platform without minimum hassle.

Fire TV runs the latest version of Fire OS “Mojito,” which is based on Android, so it’s simple for developers to port their services and games over to Fire TV.

There is also a game hub, relying on the ‘dedicated’ GPU for graphics power. Amazon doesn’t seem to be presenting this as a games console replacement. The focus seems to be on playing smartphone and tablet games on your TV.

They run locally, but don’t expect necessarily AAA titles. Amazon says it will have thousands of games available for fireTV by next month, including some created by its own game studios. At their event, Amazon demoed a multiplayer shooter it had created, with rich visuals and multiplayer support. You can play titles via Amazon’s game controller (a $39 accessory), an iPad app or the Fire TV remote itself.

You can read the full press release here:

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apr. 2, 2014– (NASDAQ:AMZN)—Kindle revolutionized reading by making it possible to think of a book and be reading it in less than 60 seconds. Kindle Fire put the world’s largest selection of movies, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books, audiobooks, and magazines in the palm of your hand. In each case, Amazon integrates the hardware, software, and the content into an easy-to-use, seamless, end-to-end service for customers. Today, Amazon is excited to unveil its newest innovation—Fire TV, a tiny box that plugs into your HDTV for easy and instant access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, SHOWTIME, low-cost video rentals, and much more. Fire TV also brings photos, music, and games to the living room. Meet Amazon Fire TV at www.amazon.com/FireTV.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

40 Responses to “Amazon announces $99 Fire TV set-top box shipping today: automatic recommendations, voice search, games and more”

  1. stickyicky97 says:

    Apple better get their shit together. They’ve dicked around too long and should have updated AppleTV much more. Not to mention the ability to play games on it with it’s own dedicated app store.

    Like

    • My comment exactly-you beat me to it.

      Like

    • rahhbriley says:

      I try to be patient with them, and am often a bit of an Apologist, but I’m starting to agree a bit. I’m sure there is a reason (I’m guessing it’s content distribution/ownership rights), but I’m ready for an advancement other than the slow addition of things like ABC Go, and Disney XD, etc.

      However I will say, that if they nearly have something ready that completely leap frogs what they and the rest of the connect box market have been doing, then I eat my words. This Amazon device is barely “an improvement” over the current aTV. The next iteration ought to be decently ahead of this Amazon box, but if they have something much much better, than the wait will surely have been worth it.

      Like

    • PMZanetti says:

      I have to agree that it’s very disappointing that Apple let Amazon beat them to punch with this. In some ways this is just another streaming box, but many of the bullet points associated with it are things we’ve been expecting from a new Apple TV.

      Like

      • How exactly is coming out with a “me too” copycat product, many years after the original launched, with LESS features and FEWER capabilities … being “beaten to the punch” ? You have fallen victim to the hype only. By tomorrow, when more intelligent people have described it’s shortcomings, (and you have read this), it won’t seem like such a great device.

        Like

    • What, exactly, have they “dicked around” on? Have you actually used AppleTV? Apple has been updating AppleTV by leaps and bounds in the last 12 months with a ton of new apps and additional features. The eco-system integration is still far beyond what the competitors have, and no one can match how it seamlessly works with the rest of Apples product line up. It was just recently give a product page for prominent status, indicating just how serious Apple is taking it.

      I can find faults in AppleTV as well, such as the lack of Amazon, Crackle or Vudu, direct device attached play, lack of codecs, etc. Nothing is perfect. I can find the similar faults in Roku, Xbox as a media center, Chromecast, etc. No one product is perfect and never will be. It’s all on how it fits in your life.

      And play games? Buy a console or an iMac with a GTX 780 (or if you’re very hardcore, a full gaming rig). Roku can play a few games, yes. Poorly (my son has one). Do I think it would be a nice add-in feature? Sure. But gaming on my TV from the same apps I get on my phone? No, I don’t think I or anyone has been asking themselves “why can’t I play games from my: AppleTV/Roku/DVR/Chromecast/Set Top Box/etc”. No, because it isn’t now, nor will be, a killer feature. Why? For the same reason stated above. Even casual “gamers” will use their tablet or phone. When it’s TV time, they watch…TV. These people, if they do wish to casually game, will pick up a Wii, Wii U, maybe even a Playstation or Xbox, and skip the small TV box because they offer the same functionality plus the core of what they wanted in the first place. And maybe, just maybe they will pick up the AppleTV for gaming, or even the FireTV. However, the audience will be very small and never a killer “feature”.

      Like

    • Tallest Skil says:

      See, none of that is true. And you can play any iOS game there already.

      Like

  2. I think Amazon should have stuck with their original plans. They should have made an app to go on all the consoles out there: Xbox, PS4, ATV, Western Digital, etc. They should have made a stand-alone app for PC’s & Mac’s. I believe they would have greatly increased their market share that way. I’m not interested in adding another box to the mix (I have ATV, Xbox, old Roku). The market has 2 major players (ATV & Roku) and 1 up-and-coming (Chromecast). Amazon is going to be hard pressed to surpass any of these guys.

    Like

    • PMZanetti says:

      I agree to the extent that this device really only appeals to people who are already firmly rooted in the Amazon ecosystem…. Whatever that actually is.

      But this is certainly a competitive offering for someone who does not yet have an Apple TV or Roku

      Like

      • Competitive if you want to limit yourself to only Amazon’s world. Why would anyone get this over the comparable $99 Roku or ATV? when the others already have first-class support for Hulu, Netflix, and many other direct competitors of Amazon. I wouldn’t trust that Netflix (or similar) would spend the kind of development dollars making the experience on their competitor’s platform as good as it is on devices that will give Netflix top billing or at least equal standing.

        Like

  3. danbridgland says:

    “The Fire TV … is based on Android, so developers can port their smartphone and tablets apps over to the platform WITHOUT minimum hassle.”

    Couldn’t have said it better!

    Like

  4. nrjperera says:

    This is actually pretty cool. Quad core and 2GB RAM. Better than I’ve expected it to be. Including games is a nifty idea.

    Like

  5. Tim Jr. says:

    Meh.. nothing is really standing out to me.. no Airplay style services, no major App store or games, it’s limited to Amazon only ecosystem, at least Apple has Airplay. I don’t see this flying off the sleeves except to those who are Amazon Prime junkies for media content.

    Like

    • Yeah. And really, I don’t see how anyone can be a fanboi of Amazon Video specifically, when all the good content is constantly swapping between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, and others. For example, Veronica Mars (the series) used to be on Netflix. Today it’s on Amazon Prime. Next week they might pull it off and put it up on Hulu. Being a “fan” and having only one of these platforms just means you get to only watch a third of the good content because they seem to mostly all do exclusive deals.

      IMHO, the only way to properly do online TV is to get discounted subscriptions to all 3 (including sharing with a small family or friend group) so that you can watch them all. For that reason I think it’d be foolish to buy a box from Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu directly, knowing that at worst they will block competitors from making apps or degrade performance of them, and at best the competitors will make that platform a non-priority and it won’t get the best experience. Like using Netflix on a Wii compared to on a high-end device.

      Like

  6. I am getting so tired of seeing Apple being beaten to the categories they should be leading. We still have no smart watch, no Apple TV update, no Apple TV app store, and are being nearly equalled in phone and tablets. Time after time we are told “this is just the beginning, this is going to be a big year for Apple” and nothing comes! What the heck are they doing?

    Like

    • Robert Nixon says:

      Apple wasn’t first to market with a tablet, smartphone or MP3 player, either. Apple is working off their own vision, and they aren’t going to rush a product to market just to say that they got there first. That’s never been their driving force, nor should it be.

      Like

      • I always find these comments “apple wasn’t first in other categories” to be lacking in context. Yes Apple’s iPod or iPhone were not the first products in their categories, but when they came out their features, hardware, software and overall design was literally years ahead of the competition. It’s VERY hard to imagine that Apple has a product in this arena that is simply head and shoulders beyond what we already are seeing.

        Right now Roku, AppleTV, Chromecast and the Fire TV are all in the same league just battling it out (like Blackberry, Windows Phone, and Nokia back in the early 2000s). For the argument above to hold true the launch of a next generation Apple TV would need to parallel the extreme leap that the iPhone represented (that is, if it is going to be revolutionary and not simply Apple’s version).

        That’s the difference in Apple 2014 and the one under Steve Jobs. I’m not saying it’s easy to revolutionize categories (doing it 3 times with the iPod, iPhone and iPad is remarkable), but if Apple is to continue growing like is has in the past it must do what it has done in the past and show us the future today.

        I certainly hope they can, but I think it’s reasonable to criticize Apple’s current offering compared to peers. This is a perfectly on-par offering from Amazon given today’s technology. What we expect from Apple is something on par with tomorrow’s.

        Like

    • scumbolt2014 says:

      Make your own then Mr. Impatient. Such jaded people, no new product introduction for a year (counting Mac Pro) and the technibabies are soiling their hard drives. My Apple TV does what I need just fine, I’m not in a hurry to replace all my gadgets every 6 months.

      Like

  7. Really hoping for an ATV update. Hopefully the slowness will mean a much better product.

    Like

  8. Do people want to play cell phone games on their TV? I think of console games as something I sit down and play for hours. Cell phone games are something I play for a few minutes and enjoy, but but quickly get bored of. How enjoyable will a cell phone game be if I lose the touch interface?

    Like

    • Robert Nixon says:

      Just because the platform is Android-based doesn’t mean the games are “cell phone games”. There is no reason someone can’t develop a game specifically for games that entails hours of game play. It may not have next-gen graphics, but there is more to playing games than visuals.

      Like

  9. It supports Minecraft and the Walking Dead game, how cool. But no HBO Go, that’s a deal breaker. This would be good for someone who has Prime but no gaming console. Like other commenters I already have ATV and don’t plan to switch, but the beauty of competition is if Apple wasn’t already planning on adding gaming functionality, I bet they are now.

    Like

  10. scumbolt2014 says:

    Just who I’d want introducing my new product, Crazey Busey. So 2006 with the grid style. People scoffed at the name iPad, but these Android names are getting goofier with each release. What’s next? Android Water Bong?

    Like

  11. Funny how they blatantly ripped off the click wheel on the remote from ATV.

    Like

  12. Does the fire tv only compatible on a kindle fire hdx or we can also use  any tablet and smartphones for mirroring?

    Like

  13. Forgive my ignorance as i have never had Apple TV. I know that Apple TV would be able to mirror what is going on my screen / sound with my mac pro. Is this something FireTV could do with my Mac pro as well?

    Like

  14. sardonick says:

    Shut up and take my money!

    Like

  15. golfersal says:

    Sorry but no MLB baseball app.
    Everyone else has it, will stick with my roku

    Like

  16. A new games system has entered the market. A vision of the forthcoming Apple TV update, Amazons new set top box will let you play games. We’ll take a closer look at it when we can.

    Like