6 Apr 2014

Amazon Fire TV: The Things You Need to Know

By Mashable Team:

Amazon dove headfirst into the video hardware business on Wednesday with Fire TV. The online retailer hosted a product launch event in New York City and Mashable covered it live.

Below are the most important highlights

Five things you need to know

1- Amazon launched into the video hardware business on Wednesday with a set-top device.
2- You can buy it for $99.
3- The device is Amazon's Trojan horse into your living room -- it's all about the content.
4- Its $40 controller, and variety of available games, means it could rival to traditional gaming consoles.
5- Gary Busey is the product's spokesperson because why not.

Why Amazon is releasing a set-top box

Apple TV's pointer makes it frustrating to use. Roku's search needs work. Chromecast has "poor performance."

That was the message Amazon delivered at a press event on Tuesday before it announced plans to release a set-top box of its own called Fire TV. The device has dual-band WiFi, 2GB of RAM and voice search, among other features, and goes on sale Tuesday for $99.

The new product, which was originally rumored to be scheduled for last year, may give Amazon more footing in customers' living rooms and pit the company against the likes of Apple, Google and Roku. As with pretty much everything Amazon does, though, it's not really about the hardware — it's about what you can buy through the hardware.

Hands on with the new device

Gary Busey is Fire TV's spokesman

Amazon has found the face of its ambitious new set-top device, and that face is Gary Busey's. In a video that now appears on Amazon.com, Busey says, "If you’re like me, you like talking to things. It’s frustrating when things don’t listen. Especially high-tech things."

What sets the Fire TV apart

Amazon introducing a new living room game console option pretty much blows up the industry.

If this device costs, say $99, it will be game over for Sony and Microsoft in their attempts to lure causal gamers to their platforms. Consumers like simplicity and this little box may offer it. Plus, Amazon has trumped Apple, which, thanks to its vacillating in the state of their AppleTV product has missed a huge opportunity.

It's not the video content or even the Amazon-extras like Free Time and X-Ray mode that sets Fire TV apart. It’s apps and games. This is what makes a Fire TV different and unique from a Roku. Again, this reinforces our earlier remark that Amazon wants to be on as many devices as it can, but it also wants to integrate on its own devices when possible. In this case, that’s about apps and games.

With Fire TV, Amazon could become the first company to successfully bring mobile apps en masse to the TV. Google TV couldn’t do it. Apple hasn’t done it. Amazon will

Amazon one-ups the gaming industry

The Fire TV is not just taking on the Roku, it is effectively taking on the Ouya and GameStick and pretty much every gaming console on the market. The big advantage it has over those devices is a huge native library of games made for the Fire TV.

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

By next months thousands of games will be available for customers to play, and customers can use the Fire TV remote. They can also use an app for phones or tablets as a controller, and a dedicated game controller available as an accessory.

We’d heard rumors that there would be a streaming game component on this device, and assumed it might mean non-Android games. It looks like instead, this is a hybrid, wherein, the game is streamed and downloaded at the same time, but not necessarily permanently stored on the device.

Voice Search FTW!

Amazon is highlighting its search feature: voice search. The idea of solving the set-top-box search problem is pretty cool. The microphone is in the remote. No more shouting. This is why the connection is Bluetooth, not Wifi. It is instantaneous. The microphone is in the remote control, which is connected from Bluetooth. Voice search works anywhere in the system.

You can search “princess movies” in genre, as an example. And we will.

All that power, by the way, helps with voice search, but does not account for the separate GPU. I'm waiting for the gaming portion of this presentation. What if, for example, they made a deal with Steam? Could be a game-changer.

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