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

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-04-03 Print this article Print

Amazon entered the set-top box market April 2 with the introduction of Fire TV. Customers love streaming video and the content from Hulu and Netflix, and they're watching it on streaming media devices, said Peter Larsen, Amazon's vice president in charge of Kindle. "We know, because we're selling millions of them," said Larsen. This means Amazon also hears "what's working and what's not working," which led it on a mission of "inventing and simplifying for customers." The result is a set-top box that offers access to all of Amazon's original content, the content it sells, and the content of rivals such as Netflix and Hulu, all of which can be searched by speaking at the thin, Bluetooth-enabled remote control. (Reportedly, voice-controlled TV was Steve Jobs' ah-ha moment.) Fire TV also offers users access to their music and photos, and is a fast, vibrant gaming unit, supporting games that rivals such as Apple TV and Roku don't. Gamers can play using Fire TV's remote, their smartphones or tablets, or a $39.99 game controller that resembles the Xbox 360's controller. "We offer premium products at non-premium pricing," said Larsen, saving the final juicy detail for last, the price: $99.

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

    By Michelle Maisto
    Amazon's Fire TV Primed to Take On Apple TV, Roku
  • 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.
    Amazon Fire TV: Little Box, Big Specs
  • 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.
    Amazon Knows Customer Pain Points
  • 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.
    Missionaries for the People
  • 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.
    What Fire TV Can Do
  • 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.
    Instantaneous Play
  • 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.
    Amazon FreeTime
  • 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.
    Amazon Game Studios
  • 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.
    Fire TV Remote Control
  • 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.
    Game Controller
  • 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.
    Amazon and the Gaming Market
  • 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."
    Non-Premium Pricing
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.

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