Outlook: Amazon Launches Fire TV to No Fanfare
On Wednesday, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) introduced the Fire TV multimedia set-top box for video, music, and gaming. Fire TV began shipping today from Amazon.com at the same $99 price point as Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV and Roku 3 (likely its main set-top box competition), and above the $35 price point of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Chromecast.
Fire TV includes a free remote control with a built-in microphone for Voice Search; a $39.99 game controller is optional. It has a quad-core processor with over 3x the processing power of the three competitors, 4x the memory, and a dedicated graphics processing unit. It delivers 1080p HD video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. For video, FireTV features Amazon Instant Video (to rent or purchase), Prime InstantVideo (unlimited viewing for Prime subscribers), and a slew of third-party apps such as Hulu Plus, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Watch ESPN, and YouTube, among others. For gaming, Fire TV features content from Amazon Game Studios, Disney, EA, Game loft, Mojang, and Take-Two, among others. Finally, for music, Fire TV features Amazon MP3, iHeartRadio, and Pandora, among others.
Fire TV has a number of nice features, but none appear to us to be “must-have”. Users can access previously purchased content from Amazon Instant Video (movies and TV), as well as previously-uploaded content from the Amazon Cloud Drive (including purchased music, as well as personal photos and videos). Voice Search allows the user to search by movie, TV show, actor, game, and a slew of other options, and utilizes Bluetooth technology to eliminate the need for line of sight.
Advanced Streaming and Prediction (ASAP) predicts the video content that the user will want to watch based upon the watch list and recommendations, and loads that content ahead of time to minimize buffering. Users can fling content from a Second Screen (including the Kindle Fire HDX currently, with the iPhone and iPad available later this year) to the Fire TV. X-Ray shows movie, TV, and music information on the user’s Second Screen. Fire TV also works with Free Time Unlimited, a subscription service that costs Prime members $2.99 per month and provides all-you-can-eat content for young children.