Amazon just walked into your living room and started kicking ass and taking names: Today the company announced the Amazon Fire TV, a new set-top box that blows past the aging Apple TV, does far more than the Roku and Google Chromecast streaming stick, and it even launches a sleek and simple new gaming platform that will compete with the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4.
Holy Macaroni, Batman. Amazon is not joking around.
I already ordered one. It’ll get here tomorrow.
Inside the Amazon Fire TV
Why all the excitement? Here’s why — the Amazon Fire TV promises to do most of the cool things you need a set-top box to do, easily.
The Amazon Fire TV is a device that:
- Streams Amazon movies and TV to your living room HDTV
- Streams video content from third-party providers like Netflix, Hulu, NBA, Vevo, ESPN, Showtime, etc
- Plays games
- Lets you search with your voice: “say it, watch it”
- Avoids video buffering by predicting the shows you like
- Arrives at your home pre-registered to your Amazon account for near instant setup
- Plays games — oh, already said that, then this: plays games with a real game controller, too
- Streams music
- Streams photos and video (also as a screen saver)
- Includes Amazon FreeTime, which is a parental control that lets you set up accounts and activity for kids
- Mirrors your Kindle Fire HDX to your HDTV . . . and lets you multi-task on the tablet at the same time
- Uses a Bluetooth remote (line-of-sight not needed)
What About Games?
It turns out that while there are millions of hard core PC and Xbox and Sony gamers in the world, there are tens of millions more casual gamers — kids and adults who spend hours playing simple games on their iPhones, iPads, tablets, and smartphones. In fact, some of the hottest games that are making a lot of money are simple — they don’t have mind-blowing graphics and huge world story lines.
As near as I can tell right now, there are 102 Fire TV apps and games that work with the included Fire TV remote. If you buy the Amazon Fire Game Controller, which is a full-size console gaming style controller similar to an Xbox controller, the number of games and apps jumps to 142.
Plus, Amazon Game Studios — that’s right, Amazon is actively creating its own games — announced Sev Zero, a new fast action third-person shooter and multi-player, multi-screen tower defense game built specifically for Fire TV.
Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablets — and Amazon Prime video service — ecosystem is growing fast. Amazon is now a hardware, software, and services provider of both mobile and home products, edging into Apple’s territory. Sure, Microsoft is there, too, along with Google, both of which have their own software, hardware, and services offerings that play in mobile and the living room, but Amazon is significant because the company has a set of solutions that are price-competitive with enviable quality that delivers content to its highly loyal and active customer base.
What’s this mean for Apple fans and Apple TV owners? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. In a battle between the aging Apple TV and the new Kindle Fire TV, Apple might lose some potential customers. Many? Doubtful. Why?
I think Apple will eventually introduce its own new Apple TV, which will sport many of the same sorts of features enabled by Amazon. It will let you play games. It might let you talk to an Apple TV-based Siri. It will open up a big ecosystem to game developers, much like the already huge iOS ecosystem.
And there’s no way a Kindle Fire TV is going to displace me from my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. There’s far too much goodness there to stray. But from the couch? I’ll dabble with the Amazon Fire TV. After all, I’m a fan of both companies — and where there’s competition, consumers like us usually win through increased innovation and better services.