Amazon may be getting all the buzz at the moment for the Fire TV (and let's not forget the Apple TV with its 20 million units sold last quarter), but they're not all there is. ZTE's Android gaming console recently became available outside of China, and it adds a unique perspective on just how much these things cost.
The ZTE Funbox runs Android 4.3 on a 1.8GHz Tegra 4 CPU with 2GB RAM and 8GB Flash storage. It's reportedly available in China for 698 yuan (about $112), and can be bought from a reseller on AliExpress for $159.
This gaming console has 2 USB ports, an HDMI port, dual-band Wifi, Bluetooth, and an ethernet port. It also features Dolby DigitalPlus audio and support for 4K video (which we could have guessed from the CPU spec). In addition to the remote control, it also comes bundled a gaming controller.
The Funbox outpoints or matches the Fire TV in several areas, including, storage, controllers, connectivity, and price, all with a retail of 698 yuan. That's considerably cheaper than the Fire TV, which tells us that Amazon probably has a profit margin built into the Fire TV's $99 retail price.
Amazon usually sells their hardware on razor thin margins, but I don't think that is happening in this case. If I am right then that tells us something about Amazon's expectations for the Fire TV.
This time around Amazon isn't quite so certain that they will recoup their costs via content sales. That's been their business model for the Kindle Fire tablets and the Kindle ebook readers since at least late 2011, but Amazon doesn't seem quite so certain that the model will work here.
Amazon passed up the opportunity to give Roku a heart attack by pricing the Fire TV for $79 (much like the $199 Kindle Fire did to Barnes & Noble in 2011), and I think they made that decision because they wanted the extra $20 as a cushion.
What do you think?