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Amazon Debuts their Response to Roku – the Fire TV

To the surprise fire tv amazon 1of practically no one, Amazon launched a streaming media device today.

Amazon will release the Fire TV for $99, starting today.

Dubbed the Fire TV, this box promises to be one of Amazon’s more powerful gadgets.  It’s going to be running Android on a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU with 2GB RAM, Bluetooth, 8GB internal storage, and dual-antenna wifi. It’s going to support 1080p video and Dolby digital surround stereo.

And it is reportedly so thin that it could qualify as a set under box. "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."

I’m still looking for exact dimensions, but from the images available (via Mashable) I think he is exaggerating a lot. It’s not thinner than a dime; but it is less tall than a dime’s diameter. Note the USB, ethernet, and HDMI ports:

fire tv amazon 1

I don’t have a list of all of the compatible apps, but the names being bandied about so far include Netflix, iheartradio, Showtime, Hulu, MLB, Crackle, NBA, YouTube, TED, Disney, ESPN, and more. There’s also a report that a Plex app leaked in advance of the launch.

If that’s the Fire Tv in his hand then I was right ti estimate the size at four inches square:

fire tv amazon 2

And here’s the best feature (from Read Write): "This isn’t a closed ecosystem," Larsen said. "It has a ton of content. But how do you find this content? This is what you do on Fire TV: (speaks) 'John Malkovich.' You can now see all of the movies John Malkovich is in, and easily add any of them to my Watch List. There’s a microphone integrated into the remote control so I don’t need to yell across my living room."

The Fire TV is going to ship with video, but starting next month it will also have support for music apps.  It will also ship with support for Kindle Freetime and X-Ray.

more details to come

Update: This is also going to be a gaming box, just like I expected on Friday. That controller which showed up at the FCC is going to be available as an optional accessory.  Amazon is now saying that by next month the Fire TV will have thousands of games for customers to play. They’ll be able to play with the gaming controller or with the Fire TV’s remote (it’s a Wiimote-like controller). There’s also a mention of installing an app on their smartphone or tablet so it can be used as a controller as well.

We wanted to build a streaming media device that allowed customers to play a variety of games at affordable prices,” the head of Amazon Games Studios announced on Wednesday.

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George April 2, 2014 um 12:09 pm

Unfortunately my wife says I can’t buy one yet. Something about having to pay down our credit card first & see if some reviews come out on the Fire TV.

jjj April 2, 2014 um 12:12 pm

They list the specs, the Soc is Snapdragon 600 like ( might be a TV targeted version by name) and size is 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.7″ (115 mm x 115 mm x 17.5 mm), 9.9 oz (281 grams)

PS: so … Google TV by Amazon

Nate Hoffelder April 2, 2014 um 12:15 pm

Thanks. I updated the post.

Robert April 2, 2014 um 12:25 pm

Is anyone excited by this?

Nate Hoffelder April 2, 2014 um 12:29 pm

I’m kinda sorta excited. But I’m not into gaming so this was never really going to interest me.

jjj April 2, 2014 um 12:39 pm

Gaming is not at all a focus here, it’s a 1 year old phone SoC running Android games, you can do better with a new phone connected to a TV and a controller. Gaming for now is an afterthough, maybe they do more in the next generations…
Would have been more exciting for gaming if they had Tegra K1 since it supports desktop class features, or if they had a cloud gaming service launching.
It’s just a me too box and a simplified Google TV.

Nate Hoffelder April 2, 2014 um 3:06 pm

True, this is a weak gaming console.

fjtorres April 2, 2014 um 3:24 pm

It is also a weak streamer. Even Roku makes an effort at DLNA local streaming.
Plenty of SmartTVs and BluRay players beat it.

Alexander Inglis April 2, 2014 um 12:31 pm

One of the key differentiators of the service — if I am reading the background correctly — is that recommendations flow across services. So, unlike Roku, where you start Netflix or start Hulu Plus or start Plex … and then sit inside each services world … Fire TV is able to find recos and build watch lists across all the services you have enabled.

That alone would make Roku obsolete.

fjtorres April 2, 2014 um 2:34 pm

Roku has cross-service search.

Microsoft too.
Problem is FireTV + Controller = $140 and XBOX360 4GB = $179.
The Xbox is a whole different league for gaming and streaming since it supports local streaming off attached storage and off home mdia servers. (The FireTV may or not stream off local drives via USB but there is no mention of DLNA support in the specs.) And if you hunt around, you can find bundles with a couple games that make up the price difference.

For internet streaming only users, the $50 Roku seems way better–for streaming + gaming Xbox is easily worth the extra cost.
Amazon pricing matches the top Roku and Apple list, but Roku can be found at a discount.

It’s a tweener.
Unless they add value with updates its got a very narrow market.

Nate Hoffelder April 4, 2014 um 8:05 am

Curiously enough, the Fire TV doesn’t have cross-platform search:

The much hyped voice search only finds stuff at Amazon.

Common Sense April 2, 2014 um 12:48 pm

No compelling reason to spend $99 to replace our perfectly good Roku, that does all the same stuff, except for the voice commands.

And when it talks about games, it means the apps in the Appstore, not full-blown video games. We don’t use the games that we have on Roku anyway.

Oh, and their comparison chart says that Roku doesn’t have Pandora, yes it does.

If Amazon wanted this to be successful, they should have come out with it when they created Prime. For a lot of people, there was no way to watch it on TVs so Roku became very popular for just that reason. Amazon is a day late and a dollar short on this one.

Nate Hoffelder April 2, 2014 um 12:57 pm

Prime Instant Video launched 4 years ago. The tech wasn’t nearly as good back then.

StevH April 2, 2014 um 1:45 pm

Kinda predictable, and no real compelling 'killer app' or reason to buy if you already have Prime & a way to send it to your TV (Roku/Apple TV/PC w/HDMI).
I think the big potential is if this becomes a standard item with Prime subscriptions…i.e. join Prime and get this cool little box for only $49 extra. (in the giveaway the razor/sell the blades model).

Amazon Adds New Channels to the Fire TV’s Voice Search, Promises New Updates Will Add MP3, FreeTime Support – The Digital Reader April 17, 2014 um 5:34 pm

[…] TV hasn’t kept the set top box from (briefly) selling out for a few days since it launched a couple weeks ago, and I think today’s news might make that happen […]

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