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Amazon Bows Fire TV Streaming Device

2 Apr, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Device doubles as a casual video game console

Amazon April 2 announced the launch of a set-top device and dual-band Wi-Fi radio that enables users to purchase and stream video entertainment, including video games.

In a special media event, Amazon said the $99 Fire TV streaming device includes 2GB of RAM, a USB port, HDMI input, Bluetooth, search (including voice) functionality and a remote control.

Amazon claims the device will have three-times the operating performance capability and four-times the memory of Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku, including recommendation software for movies, TV shows and music.

The device is based on the Android operating system, and enables authenticated pay-TV subscribers TV Everywhere access to live and on-demand programming, transactional VOD, electronic sellthrough, in addition to subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus. Notably absent is access to HBO Go.

Streaming set-top device market leader Roku established the market in 2008 when it manufactured a Netflix-branded player. Streaming players enable users to stream video from the Internet to the television. Roku's devices have access to more than 1,200 third-party content channels, including HBO Go.

Fire TV also allows users to upload pictures to the TV, in addition to lyrics from songs enabling karaoke functionality. An additional “Freetime” kids app costs $2.99 a month.

With a separate Fire TV game controller ($39.99), users can play digital games through the set-top box, including newly released title, Mindcraft. The device includes about 1,000 free games, in addition to third-party titles.

Amazon Games Studios is developing video games for Fire TV and Kindle tablets. Other game manufacturers include Disney, EA, Gameloft, Mojang, and Take-Two, among others. For music, Fire TV features Amazon MP3, iHeartRadio, and Pandora, among others.

Despite the stealth announcement/media event, which surprisingly wasn’t streamed, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said he was underwhelmed by the launch with Amazon missing an opportunity to separate the device from the competition.

Pachter believes the primary use for Fire TV will be video streaming through Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Prime Instant Video, three applications that are already available on a slew of other consumer electronics devices, including Fire TV's primary competition.

“With similar application availability and pricing for Fire TV and its competition, we remain unconvinced that buyers will opt for Fire TV at the expense of Apple and Roku, particularly among non-Amazon customers,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Further, most gaming consoles already provide access to these streaming services, making Fire TV another entry in an already crowded space.”

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