Amazon Unveils Streaming Media Device
Amazon wants to be the brain -- and the heart -- inside your big-screen TV.
On Wednesday the company introduced a small black box called Amazon Fire TV that enables television sets to access Internet programming, including streaming shows from its Amazon Prime subscription service, and a giant library of video games.
The device will cost $99 and will start shipping immediately.
With it, Amazon will compete head-on both with streaming gadgets like Apple TV and console makers like Microsoft and Sony.
All of these companies, in various ways and for various reasons, want to supplement -- and, over time, possibly replace -- the set top boxes from cable and satellite companies that sit in most living rooms.
Amazon's Fire TV has several unique features, including a remote control with a voice recognition search feature, so a user can speak the name of a show, actor or topic and find that content.
A remote with a microphone won't be enough for Amazon to win the streaming device wars, though.
At a press event in Manhattan, Amazon differentiated Fire TV by reading snippets of negative user reviews of other streaming media gadgets from Amazon.com. The complaints called out competitors like Google (maker of Chromecast), Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and Vizio by name.
The company said it identified three big issues that make streaming devices "too frustrating:" inadequate search tools, sluggish performance and closed ecosystems of apps.
Fire TV may help advance Amazon's streaming TV ambitions. The company has started to introduce original shows, like "Alpha House" and "Betas," and has spent handsome sums of money to secure exclusive rights to other shows, like past seasons of Fox's "24." But its streaming service is a fraction of the size of Netflix's library.
And yes, I did say a gaming console as well. Amazon Games Studios has been working on a plethora of games for the device. Some will be free, some will be purchasable apps.
Here's a preview of Amazon Games Studos "Sev Zero"