Amazon's Fire TV Primed to Take On Apple TV, Roku

Amazon's Fire TV Primed to Take On Apple TV, Roku
Amazon Fire TV: Little Box, Big Specs
Amazon Knows Customer Pain Points
Missionaries for the People
What Fire TV Can Do
Instantaneous Play
Amazon FreeTime
Amazon Game Studios
Fire TV Remote Control
Game Controller
Amazon and the Gaming Market
Non-Premium Pricing
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Amazon's Fire TV Primed to Take On Apple TV, Roku

By Michelle Maisto

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Amazon Fire TV: Little Box, Big Specs

Amazon Fire TV is a 0.7-inch square, now available for $99, that may change the set-top box market. Amazon says it runs a quad-core processor with more than three times the processing power and four times the memory of Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku 3. This enables it to be not just a great TV companion, but a gaming device too.

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Amazon Knows Customer Pain Points

Amazon's digital video customer growth chart is steeper than Mount Everest. But in many cases there was a middle man—a middle product—between Amazon and those customers. (Google's Chromecast is an Amazon top-seller.) Amazon was hearing customer paint points—such as that searching was too hard—and decided it could do better.

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Missionaries for the People

"We've been missionaries, inventing and simplifying for customers," said Peter Larsen, Amazon's vice president in charge of Kindle. This effort has included the Mayday button and leading the committee against the "Please turn off all electronic devices" announcement on flights. "What else can we do in the service of simplicity, so that you can sit back, relax and lose yourself in the director's world?" Amazon wondered.

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What Fire TV Can Do

The answer, Amazon decided, was access to music (whatever you already own is cued up the moment you open the box), photos, games and Amazon's own programming as well as others'. "You can watch 'Alpha House' plus 'House of Cards.' This is not a closed ecosystem," said Larsen, referring to hit shows from Amazon and Netflix, respectively.

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Instantaneous Play

You can find what you're looking for in seconds, thanks to voice search, and it starts "instantaneously," said Larsen, showing off the product indeed leaping from the menu to mid-movie with zero of the lag or spinning dials that are common with other units.

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Amazon FreeTime

Amazon also included the Kindle feature FreeTime, which enables parents to fill up a section with age-appropriate content for kids, set time limits, and let them watch or play on their own (a password is required to exit FreeTime mode). "It prevents me from having to be a sheriff in the living room," said Larsen.

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Amazon Game Studios

Just as Amazon has begun creating original programming, it's now also creating games. "Sev Zero" is its first original game. Fire TV users can also play games from EA, Sega, Disney and a host of other companies with which Amazon has partnered.

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Fire TV Remote Control

The remote control is small, thin and light, with a soft finish that feels good in the hand. Press the microphone button to begin telling Fire TV what you'd like to watch.

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Game Controller

Fire TV users can play games using the remote control, their smartphones or tablets, or a separately sold game controller, priced at $39.99.

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Amazon and the Gaming Market

"This is a very big time in video games," said Mike Frazzini, general manager of Amazon Games. When Amazon began developing Fire TV, "naturally we thought of games right from the beginning." The controller, which resembles the Xbox 360's controller, will have no learning curve for users.

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Non-Premium Pricing

With Fire TV, Amazon is adding to its collection of hardware offerings that yield little if any profit, betting that the ongoing, online purchasing that the set-top encourages will pay off. The average price of an Amazon game will be $1.85. Following the announcement, analyst Avi Greengart, with Current Analysis, tweeted, "AVERAGE use of Xbox One is five. hours. a day."

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