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

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.

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‘Jobs’ biopic starring Ashton Kutcher now available on Netflix

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Update: Not so fast. Despite Netflix promoting the movie on Twitter and it being available earlier, it’s currently no longer available. We’ve reached out to Netflix for more information.

Update 2: Netflix tells me that Jobs “will be back on soon.”

Update 3: Netflix tells me an issue with subtitles led to it being pulled and it should be resolved now.

If you haven’t seen Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs yet or just want to catch the film again, Netflix now features ‘Jobs’ in its catalog of streaming movies and TV shows for subscribers. Netflix of course offers streaming to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users in addition to Apple and Mac users for $7.99 a month.

The biopic featuring Kutcher was released to mixed reviews, and our own Michael Steeber shared his thoughts on the film in 9to5Mac‘s review of Jobs.

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Opinion: Will the spring launch of Amazon/Nexus/Apple TV signal the beginning of the end of live, broadcast TV?

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Streaming TV is heating-up. We’re expecting a new Apple TV box to be announced in April, Amazon looks set to launch its own box in March and Google is reputed to be not far behind with a Nexus-branded box.

So-called cord-cutting – people who give up their cable TV subscriptions in favor of streaming content over the web – is growing in popularity. Mobile TV viewing on tablets is increasingly common.

All of which makes me wonder whether we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of live TV … ?  Read more

How-to: Setup and Use Chromecast to stream your content from a Mac and iOS device

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The Chromecast, Google’s streaming HDMI dongle came out last summer. It is compatible with any Android device running 2.3 or later, iOS device with iOS 6 or 7, and any Mac or PC. Initially, users were able to stream Netflix or Youtube from an iOS device and Android device, Google Play Movies and Music only on Android, or cast websites using the Chrome browser on a computer. The Chromecast works differently from Airplay in that you can multitask and do other tasks on the device or you can let it go to sleep while streaming.

Very quickly after its release, Chromecast has received support for Hulu +, Pandora, and HBO GO. Last month a major update added ten new apps including Plex, Vevo, Songza, Red Bull TV, Post TV from the Washington Post, Viki, RealPlayer Cloud, Avia, Revision3 Internet Television and BeyondPod. The most recent update the Chromecast received allowed users to stream Google Play Movies and Music directly from the Chrome browser on a computer.

In this How-to, we’ll discuss how to setup the Chromecast, use it with a Mac and iOS device and explore its gaming potential.

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Report: Apple negotiating w/ media companies for pay TV service, working on full-fledged TV set

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A new report from Quartz today offers some details on Apple’s content negotiations for a much rumored revamped Apple TV. Most of the report echoes what we’ve heard several times in the past– Apple is apparently talking with HBO, Disney, MTV and others about a new TV service. According to Quartz, it could include a pay TV service that would see Apple “essentially becoming a cable company itself,” as well as the release of a “full-fledged television set”:

One alternative being considered is that Apple could essentially become a cable company itself. Under that scenario, sources say, Apple would launch what is formally known as a virtual multichannel video programming distributor. Apple is still interested in striking deals with cable companies that would allow people to plug their cable lines into the back of the TV set, bypassing a cable box, sources say. But at least two years of negotiations haven’t progressed very far.

Sources say Apple has concluded that it doesn’t need all, even most, content providers on board before it can release a TV set that people would buy. It just needs enough good programming to distinguish the new product, which will try to simplify the experience of connecting internet video to the TV.

The report doesn’t offer up any details that we didn’t hear around this same time last year (and the year before that), but it appears Apple could be closer to reaching the deals it needs to launch the next-generation of Apple TV. Earlier today we reported that former Hulu SVP Pete Distad has now officially started his new role at Apple as Product Marketing VP and is thought to be leading Apple executives through negotiations with cable and media companies.  Read more

Netflix user profiles feature starts rolling out to Apple TV users

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As first noted by MacRumors, Apple TV customers will be pleased to know that the $99 “hockey puck” will soon fully support Netflix’s newly announced user profiles. While Netflix says that a complete rollout to all supported devices will be complete by the end of August, it appears that the feature is partially available today for certain Apple TV and Netflix users.

Netflix’s user profiles allow subscribers to create personal viewing accounts that track individual ratings, recently viewed movies/showes, and recommendations. Each account can also set different parental controls to differentiate viewing capabilities between parent and child accounts.

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