Amazon Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that it will release a consumer set-top box, which will compete with Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromecast and Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple TV, at an event in New York on Wednesday.
Amazon Fire TV will be released today and sold in the company’s online marketplace for $99, the same price as Apple TV. The company (NASDAQ:AMZN) said the Fire TV will allow consumers to stream content from the company’s proprietary Web services, ESP and Hulu, and it will have a microphone for hands-free voice search.
Peter Larsen, vice president of Kindle devices, said the Fire TV is superior to competing devices, such as Apple TV, with which it shares a similar form factor. Larsen said reviews on Amazon.com cited poor search features on the Apple TV, and that the Fire TV addressed issues that consumers say affected its competitors' products. Performance is slow on most devices leading to the “dreaded spinner,” Larsen said, and apps like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) are slow to open on competing devices like the Roku and Chromecast. The Fire TV will perform better on that issue, Larsen said.
The Amazon Kindle Fire TV will ship with a Bluetooth remote, and it will have a quad-core processor, a dedicated graphics processor (GPU), 2GB of RAM and a dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi with MIMO. Amazon said that developers and competing content will be available in an open ecosystem for the Fire TV, an apparent dig at Apple for not supporting Amazon's Prime Instant Video service.
Amazon said that Minecraft, Sega, EA and Disney are Fire TV gaming partners, and that it will offer more than 1,000 free games at launch. Users can play games with the Fire TV’s Bluetooth remote. Amazon will also sell a standard game controller for $39.99 and comes with 1,000 Amazon Coins, which can be used to buy games from the company’s marketplace.
Amazon Games Studios will also “build games from the ground-up for Fire TV and Kindle tablets,” including Sev Zero, a futuristic sci-fi shooter. Games on Fire TV can be played on the set-top box while others can play along on smartphones and Kindle tablets.
Fire TV will run on a modified version of Google’s Android operating system, much like the company’s Kindle tablets, allowing customers to “port” apps to the device that are not currently supported. Amazon’s Fire TV will offer a feature called ASAP TV, which predict what customers will want to watch and preload the content for faster loading. The feature will work with ESPN, Showtime Anytime, Disney, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Plex.
The Amazon Fire TV will support the company's X-Ray for movies, shows and music. X-Ray is a feature that provides information that first appeared on Kindle Fire tablets. HBO Go will not be supported by Amazon’s Fire TV at launch. However, the company said that it will be available soon after the set-top box is released. The Fire TV will also not support YouTube at launch.
This is a developing story, check back and follow reporter Thomas Halleck on Twitter @tommylikey.