Amazon has entered the set top area with its Fire TV. The video streaming hardware is not just for movies and shows. The little box also will play games. This is something that Apple has been rumored to be working on. As for Google, there are already a few Android powered game systems however none of them are as robust as the Fire TV. The specs of the device are nothing that Sony or Microsoft need to worry about. The $99 box sports 2 gigs of RAM, Wi-Fi, a blue tooth remote, a custom OS and has a quad-core processor. On the media side the Fire TV will come with support for Hulu Plus, HBO GO, SHO Anytime, Watch Espn, Showtime, MLB, Disney, YouTube, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Netflix, Amazon’s own Instant Video and Music services. Amazon will also be delivering explosive content for the device.
The remote has seven buttons and a click wheel navigator. Amazon Fire TV has no lag or buffering. Soon as you press “play” your content starts playing right away. You can have watchlist just as you would find in the app. You will also have access to your media library, games, apps and photos. The instant playback will spoil you and will make it hard to go back to your other media boxes. The custom OS is a bit HTML and a bit Android. No one including Samsung does a better job maximizing Android than Amazon. They were able to do incredible things with Kindle Fire. That experience is helps the Fire TV shine. Unlike Apple TV, devs are welcome and encouraged to port their apps over to the Fire TV. Developers can port web or Android based applications.
VP of Kindle Peter Larsen said the issues with current set top media boxes are capabilities, performance issues and closed ecosystems. Amazon went on to state the issues with the current crop of Media boxes.
- Poor search on Roku
- Horrible text entry on Apple TV
- Buffering of content in terms of loading content
- Amazon Instant Video isn’t available on Apple TV
- Microsoft charges $60 per year just to use Netflix
The Amazon Fire TV lets you search by using your voice or entering text. The remote has a mic on for better detection of voice commands. You can search by genre, title, actor and keyword. What’s more the search works on all content providers. This is an issue with Microsoft Xbox One whose voice search does not work where it is needed most, in Netflix. Amazon X-ray is the 2nd screen craze that every tech company that does hardware is on. Microsoft calls theirs SmartGlass. For the Amazon Fire TV, if you own a Kindle you can pull up relevant information about the content that you are watching. X-Ray for music on the Fire TV coming soon. This will let you display the lyrics of the music you have playing.
Amazon seems to have done gaming right. They worked with Devs and publishers to make gaming on Fire TV competitive. The home consoles may not have to worry about specs but the price of the Fire TV mixed with the wide range of games may start to dent on their bottom line. Until Apple TV gets gaming Amazon will own this casual space. Steam could have won this space with its Steam Box platform but made it just confusing enough for the average joe to stay away. EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft and Take-Two are all set to bring games to the system. The games will start to flow to the system next month. You can use the Fire TV remote for gaming but we recommend buying the $40 Amazon dedicated game controller. The Fire TV game demoed was Minecraft. The Fire TV is available today for only $99. I would however, would wait to see how the Apple TV gets refreshed.