Amazon has officially entered the world of home entertainment arena by unveiling the “Fire TV” video and game streaming device on Wednesday. The hardware aims to take on the Apple TV, Roku and even the Xbox One.
Amazon vice president Peter Larsen said the retailer sells millions of streaming media devices each year, and its own box is an effort to address three complaints it commonly hears from customers: search is too clunky, there is not an open ecosystem that allows people to use several different streaming systems and performance isn’t good enough.
Larsen said the device would “make complexity disappear”. Attacking rival boxes for laborious program searches, buffering and platforms that are often closed to rival media players – such as Amazon’s – he said: “We’re selling millions of streaming media devices on Amazon.com … we hear what’s working, we hear what’s not working.”
The device, about the size of a CD case, costs $99 and features 2 gigabytes of RAM, Wi-Fi, and access to numerous content providers, including Hulu Plus, Watch ESPN, Showtime, MLB, Disney, YouTube, Netflix, and, of course, Amazon Instant Video, the company said at an event in New York today.
However, users will not be able to access HBO Go and Vudu, but it will show you content available based on your subscriptions. Music can also be streamed via Pandora, iHeartRadio and Vevo. Other features include more integration with “X-ray,” which allows you to access information on what you’re watching on a Fire HDX tablet; a kid-friendly version of the interface called FreeTime; and a photo interface.
The 0.7-inch thin Wi-Fi-supporting set-top box streams 1080p high-definition broadcasts and connects to your TV via HDMI. It comes with a “small, elegant” remote that lets you use voice to search for content; a $39.99 controller for playing video games is available separately with 1,000 “Amazon coins” which can be used to buy games.
At the launch event in New York, demos of Minecraft, Asphalt and Monsters’ University were shown running on Fire TV. Amazon said over 1,000 games are free to play with the average price of a paid for game being $1.85. Customers will get a free 30-day trial subscription to Netflix and Amazon Prime when they buy a Fire TV.
Amazon’s announcement comes less than a month after the company raised the price of Prime, its annual membership program that includes free two-day shipping on millions of products, from $79 to $99.
Buoyed by the success of its e-readers and Kindle HD tablets, Amazon is making the leap to the living room in the hope that selling more downloads could prove highly profitable. Kindle owners spend, on average, $443 more buying items of all kinds from Amazon than shoppers who do not own one of its tablets, says the Guardian.
However, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said the device is too expensive, considering that it doesn’t offer notably more than similarly priced devices. Apple TV is $99 and the top tier Roku is also $99, although it makes cheaper versions. Google’s Chromecast is $35. He also said Amazon missed a chance to lure more Prime customers by offering six-months free of the service to Fire TV owners.