Amazon just unveiled its TV set-top box—and it’s called Amazon Fire TV.
Fire TV features a quad-core processor and a dedicated GPU, as well as 2 GB of RAM for a smooth interface and fast-launching applications and videos. Fire TV also features dual-band Wi-Fi with MIMO, so applications and videos start downloading and streaming immediately. It also supports 1080p HD support and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound, but it also comes with a newfangled remote with built-in Bluetooth.
“Fire TV has three times the power and performance of Apple TV, of Roku 3, and of Chromecast,” said Peter Larsen, VP at Amazon. “It is thinner than a dime. It fits underneath your TV, behind your TV. It fades seamlessly into the background.”
There’s a new feature called ASAP, which predicts what TV shows and movies you’re going to watch and it queues them up so they start instantly. And it learns over time, so this feature will only improve upon use.
Fire TV also features channels from countless content makers, including Netflix, Hulu+, ESPN, Showtime, TED, Disney, and more, which will join shortly after the release of Fire TV. Amazon Studios will also be releasing a number of shows this year, especially in the fall. At Wednesday’s press conference, Amazon previewed 10 new Amazon Studios original series, including “Bosch,” “Mozart In The Jungle,” and “Transparent.”
In the days leading up to Wednesday’s media event in New York City, which was advertised as an “update on our video business,” various sources said Amazon would release an Android-based TV set-top box that can pull apps from the Kindle Store.
Amazon digital video services spiked in 2011—a whopping 350% growth— because the company started investing in content. Netflix and Hulu are investing in digital video services, and customers are proving how much they love the content—by watching it all on streaming media devices.
Amazon says it sells many media devices on Amazon.com, but the company hears about many forms of frustration from these products. Search is hard, especially for titles that aren’t on “bestseller lists,” but Amazon VP Peter Larsen said customers complain about poor or slow performance of these streaming devices.
“Customers shouldn’t have to tolerate this kind of laggy performance anymore,” Larsen said. “There’s no reason for it.”
The third major problem with TV set-top boxes is that they’re closed systems. Larsen said he owns an Apple TV and an Amazon Prime account, but you can’t access your various accounts—and if you can, you usually have to pay an extra subscription fee (Xbox Live users must pay $60 a year to access Netflix via Xbox.)
“We need to invent and simplify on behalf of customers,” Larsen said. “We created an experience that offered state-of-the-art power and performance so you can sit back, relax and lose yourself in the director’s world.”
Prior to the event, our sources close to the situation said Amazon’s device is “one of the most powerful set-top devices,” and even made mention that it would be tiny, but not a dongle—it would be more like Apple TV, but reportedly “zippier.” Our sources added Amazon’s set-top streaming box would be newsworthy for its price point, and the company would offer special features or discounts for its Amazon Prime members.
At one point, the Wall Street Journal said Amazon would unveil a free, ad-supported streaming service, but Amazon flat out denied those rumors at the time. And yet, it makes sense for Amazon to launch a set-top box that could leverage apps from Amazon’s various digital catalogues, including the Kindle ecosystem. Also, Amazon’s media streaming service, Amazon Prime Instant Video, features 40,000 movie and TV titles, according to Amazon.
Rumors leading up to the event differed when it came to price—some said Amazon could release an extremely competitive set-top box, around the same price or lower than Google’s $35 Chromecast, while other reports said Amazon’s device would be a “premium” gadget that would be more expensive than Chromecast, but still cost less than Apple’s $99 solution.
“Amazon already has a media ecosystem, they already have an ad network, and they already have a tested monetization strategy,” said Mark Hoelzel, a research analyst for Business Insider Intelligence. “Plus, they have 20 million Prime Members who would see a sub-$35 streaming device with unlimited Prime streaming as a no-brainer.”
Lead image by Dave Smith for ReadWrite