April 2, 2014
Fire TV: A Hot New Streaming Service Unleashed By Amazon
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The latest company to vie for space around the TV is Amazon. The online retailer just announced the Amazon Fire TV, a box that will allow for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
The box is a way to connect the TV to online content services. While Amazon offers its own video content through Amazon Prime Instant Video, users can also access Over the Top (OTT) services such as Hulu Plus, WatchESPN and YouTube, as well as other content services online. Amazon Fire TV can also be used to access music services such as Amazon MP3, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.
Additional content includes games from EA, Disney, Gameloft, Mojang, 2K and Amazon Game Studios. A few games that will initially become available include Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, and Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Amazon said that the average price of paid games will be $1.85. Most games can be played using the Fire TV remote, the Fire TV app for smartphones and tablets, or a Fire game controller.
Amazon Fire TV is about the size of an external hard drive. It comes with a quad-core processor with a dedicated GPU. It delivers a 1080p HD picture and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Amazon boasts that the processor has three-times the processing power of Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku 3 and four times the memory of each of those services.
The remote is kept simple. To aid in search, the remote has a microphone so that users can speak the name of a movie or TV show to initiate.
Where Amazon differentiates the Fire TV box from other devices on the market is in delivery. Amazon is using a feature called ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction). ASAP learns your viewing preferences and predicts which movies and TV episodes you may watch. Those movies and episodes are discreetly buffered so that playback begins faster and the stream remains smooth. Amazon also layers what it calls X-Ray for movies, TV shows and music. This allows users to view information about cast and crew, trivia, goofs and synchronized lyrics while content is playing.
“Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price—people are going to love Fire TV,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO, in a corporate statement. “Voice search that actually works means no more typing on an alphabet grid. Our exclusive new ASAP feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly. And our open approach gives you not just Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, but also Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more. On Fire TV you can watch Alpha House and House of Cards.”
Amazon Fire TV is immediately available for $99. You can use it to cut the cord with cable, but certain services do have fees. A parental control service called Amazon FreeTime is designed for children ages 3 to 8. Children will get unlimited access to age appropriate movies and TV shows. Subscriptions for Prime members run $2.99 per child or $6.99 per family.