Science and Tech


Amazon Moves Into Set-Top Streaming Market With 'Fire TV'

After a long wait, shopping giant Amazon takes on the streaming set-top market with Amazon Fire TV, a Kindle-esque destination for online video.
Posted at 3:06 PM, Apr 02, 2014

Amazon is ready to compete for a spot in your living room as it enters the streaming hardware market Wednesday with its latest product: Amazon Fire TV.

The online shopping giant finally revealed its long-awaited set-top box at a special NYC event Wednesday. The small black rectangle will allow users to stream its video content as well as media from pre-installed apps like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and more. An Amazon Prime membership isn't required to use the device, either. It ships today for $99.

At the event, Amazon's goal wasn't to slap "Fire" onto a competitively priced box — it really wanted to bring the heat.

The Verge reports event host Peter Larsen touted, "We're selling millions of streaming media devices on Amazon," so there's a good chance Amazon already knows what works on Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast — as well as what doesn't.

As Gizmodo explains, Amazon set out to combat three areas it finds less than desirable on current streaming systems.

1. Searching is lethargic, unnatural.

2. Today's streamers are laggy and slow to start.

3. Streaming content operates under a closed ecosystem — mentioning how you can't watch Amazon Instant on Apple TV.

Peter Larsen is better known as the Kindle patriarch, so it makes sense the Amazon streaming box would sport a "family name" (Fire) and glossy black interface, seen here in pictures tweeted by PC Magazine.

But even the best interfaces need an easy way to find content.  So, Amazon Fire TV's custom remote will sport a microphone for voice-activated searches for specific titles or genres.

"This new Amazon Fire TV listens to me. And does exactly what I say 'Gary Busey'. (Sighs) Yes!"

Under its little black hood is a powerful punch. The Android-based Amazon Fire TV reportedly uses a quad-core processor and hosts 2GB of ram. Larsen boasts this means playback starts immediately and "Fire TV has three times the performance of Apple TV, Roku TV and Chromecast."

And all that power supports an "open ecosystem" throughout the device, meaning Amazon will break the barriers that lock devices like Apple TV, for example, which only serves its media store and apps hand-picked by Apple, not the user.

However, one noticeably missing app from the ecosystem is HBOGo which, on Amazon's own comparison chart, is available on all three of its mainstream competitors.

One more barrier-breaking edition to Fire TV that could make up for any missing feature is the introduction of gaming.

ReadWrite reports the shopping giant teamed up with Disney, EA, Sega and more to create games specifically for its Fire TV.  Players will be able to use the native remote, their Android phone or a custom Amazon gaming controller to play.

The box hosts a slew of other features too for music, pictures and cloud connectivity.  So if you already bought that La-Z-Boy with your Prime membership, there's no other way to look at it: It's your living room, brought to you by Amazon.