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Amazon Launches Android-Powered 'Fire TV' For Streaming and Gaming 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the bookstores-sure-sell-a-lot-of-stuff-these-days dept.
Today Amazon launched 'Fire TV,' a new video streaming box designed to compete with devices like the Roku and Apple TV. The Fire TV runs Android on a quad-core Qualcomm 1.7 GHz processor with 8GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM. It supports 1080p video output at 60fps and measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7". The Fire TV is also explicitly designed to support gaming, and Amazon has concurrently launched their own game controller. The Fire TV's remote control includes a microphone and a button that lets you search TV show and movies by voice.
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Amazon Launches Android-Powered 'Fire TV' For Streaming and Gaming

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  • Is it free software? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:00PM (#46641231)

    Or user-subjugating software?

  • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:05PM (#46641273)

    My Roku 3 will let me side-load channels. If this won't, not interested. No pron, no go!

    • It's Android based so I assumed you could load other alternate things onto it.

      The one odd omissions was no HBOGo. Perhaps that's forthcoming.

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        The Kindle Fire is Android-based too. And IIRC, it's pretty locked down.

        • True, it's more expensive to get an application into Amazon Appstore ($99 per year) than into Google Play Store ($25 for 25 years). But the last time I tried a Kindle Fire tablet, the "Allow installation of applications from unknown sources" checkbox was just as easy to get to as it is on my Nexus 7 tablet.
        • The Kindle Fire isn't particularly locked down. Sideloading is explicitly allowed, and most complaints are more along the lines of "I bought all these games on Google Play and can't transfer them" (because Google doesn't licence Google Play for Kindle - ie it's Google's decision, not Amazon's), not "I can't install APKs I've developed myself."

      • >The one odd omissions was no HBOGo.

        Not really. HBO have been doing their best to prevent willing, paying customers watching their shows for a long time.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      What does this mean? I'm thinking about picking some device to watch tv with, and the things are confusing and the products I want do not exist (and likely never will). Chromecast is too simple and demands you use your phone to control it (amazingly clumsy). Apple TV seems way too Apple oriented (no android support, scores of useless features like itunes integration), Roku seems best, but still is streaming only (no dvr capability, which I think hollywood will never allow). Then even with the streaming

  • Fire TV? Coming from the Fire Box perhaps?

    Sigh. Almost as bad as XBone.

  • no sale (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh (582462)
    The same price as a Roku 3 or Apple TV, but it it "tied to membership in Amazon Prime" (Which just increased its yearly price). No thanks. Even if Amazon hadn't started charging sales tax in my state I wouldn't buy into this.
    • The same price as a Roku 3 or Apple TV, but it it "tied to membership in Amazon Prime"

      I'm not sure what you mean. From the TechCrunch article: "The catch here is that for free access to Instant Video, you’ll need to be a prime subscriber, which carries a price tag of $99 per year." Or does one of the articles claim that the Fire TV is like an Xbox 360 in that one must pay for Prime even to use third-party services such as Netflix?

      (Which just increased its yearly price)

      Which is how much more than Netflix?

      • Netlfix for just streaming is about as much as the increased Prime on a yearly basis.

        But Netflix has a much wider selection.

        I have been a Prime and Netflix subscriber for along time, but after this year the Prime increase means I'll probably drop it, as I hardly ever use the Prime video and don't ship quite enough to make up the Prime membership fee.

      • (Which just increased its yearly price)

        Which is how much more than Netflix?

        Yearly out of pocket is about the same, but when it comes to value, well - Netflix doesn't sell me a subscription, then tell me I have to pay-per-view if I want to watch anything decent or new.

  • Odd Market. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:13PM (#46641341)

    These TV devices seems likes a fairly odd market.
    We have game consoles with Apps that do all these things. or you can hook up an old PC that you have around.
    On the other end you got the Chromecast which is very cheap for your streaming from your PC.
    This middle ground I don't think really fits a lot of peoples needs, Either Pay more and get more out of your purchase, such as gaming, and perhaps a Blu-Ray player. Or pay a lot less and get something good enough.

    • We have game consoles with Apps that do all these things.

      Including indie games? Given that the Kindle Fire has an "Unknown sources" option, I'd assume it'd probably be a lot easier for a small family business to get approved as a game developer for Fire TV than for, say, Wii U.

      or you can hook up an old PC that you have around.

      I've been told for years that the majority of people are unwilling to put a big noisy PC case in the living room. (See comments linked from this post [slashdot.org].) A smaller box has a better spouse acceptance factor.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      or you can hook up an old PC that you have around.

      The average PC is a big clunky box that doesn't fit in well in this environment. It's also a lot more expensive than these $99 streamers. An older or cheaper PC might not even have the HDMI output you need for connecting to a typical flat-panel TV. And a standard Windows PC is set up with a user interface that is designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse at close range, not a remote control from 5-15 feet. Yes, there are ways around all these things, b

      • It's also a lot more expensive than these $99 streamers.

        Not if you already own it, which makes it $0.

        An older or cheaper PC might not even have the HDMI output you need for connecting to a typical flat-panel TV.

        Because HDMI inherited its signaling from DVI-D, any cheap DVI-D to HDMI cable from Monoprice will work, so long as your TV has an analog audio input on one of its HDMI inputs. (Mine does.) And the vast majority of flat-panel TVs that I've seen have a DE15 jack for VGA video. I haven't seen a PC since 1990 that doesn't have a VGA, DVI, or HDMI out.

        And a standard Windows PC is set up with a user interface that is designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse at close range

        Not since Windows 8. There's a reason for those Metro tiles that it inherited from the November 2011 update to Xbox 3

        • If you have to buy a remote and IR sensor, and configure WMC (or an equivalent), it's not free, and can be a pain in the ass. Not to mention that the UI, speed, noise, and electricity cost in the set-top boxes are all serious considerations when compared to an old computer you might just have hanging around.

          Roku (and I assume the other set top boxes) make it amazingly simple and quick to stream media. I have a Windows machine running WMC as an OTA DVR, and while it can stream Netflix and some of the other a

          • Roku (and I assume the other set top boxes) make it amazingly simple and quick to stream media.

            Until you hit "This video is not available on devices. Add it to a playlist to watch it later on a PC." I've seen a message on YouTube when viewing certain videos, and I've read reports that a lot of videos on Hulu are "web only" and unavailable through Hulu Plus. Speaking of that, last time I checked, Hulu had a free service tier that was PC-only, and not needing a valid subscription to Hulu Plus could help a home theater PC pay for itself.

            • Hulu+ is $8/month. You've got a bit of a wait if you've using that money to pay for a PC.

              We're at a point in content rights where not everything is available on set-top boxes. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use a set-top box for everything else. Car analogy: It's like using a gas-guzzling truck for your everyday commute, because your economy car can't move a piano.

              • Hulu+ is $8/month. You've got a bit of a wait if you've using that money to pay for a PC.

                Nine months and you've already covered the cost of a Bluetooth remote so that you can reuse an existing PC that has HDMI, DVI, or VGA output.

                Car analogy: It's like using a gas-guzzling truck for your everyday commute, because your economy car can't move a piano.

                A small family car like a Ford Focus can easily move an electronic sampler piano. For an acoustic model, one would normally rent a truck. I've heard the car/truck analogy applied to "mobile" devices vs. PCs as well [slashdot.org]. But in this analogy, what corresponds to rental?

                • Nine months and you've already covered the cost of a Bluetooth remote so that you can reuse an existing PC that has HDMI, DVI, or VGA output.

                  I don't know about you, but my spare computers aren't capable of running modern streaming video. The ones that can are in use in applications that aren't covered by cheap streaming boxes. Anyhow, if you're saying that 9 months at $8/month ($72) is the cost of a bluetooth remote, I'd argue that you're better off picking up a Roku at that price.

                  I've heard the car/truck analogy applied to "mobile" devices vs. PCs as well. But in this analogy, what corresponds to rental?

                  The console/PC that you borrow from a friend on a one-time basis to do the heavier lifting that the "Ford Focus" can't do well.

                • Hulu+ is $8/month. You've got a bit of a wait if you've using that money to pay for a PC.

                  Nine months and you've already covered the cost of a Bluetooth remote so that you can reuse an existing PC that has HDMI, DVI, or VGA output.

                  If you have an Android phone, you can install Gmote [gmote.org] and use your phone as the remote control. I've used it successfully with our Win7 laptop on the TV.

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                I found it a bit odd that a lot of web sites accept my ATT u-verse internet-only account as valid for watching TV. Except that even then it doesn't work well (ie, only latest 5 episodes, which are two weeks behind) and they won't play at all on the PC unless I disable ad-block and noscript AND the thing that blocks cookies. Blech.

                I suspect in 10 years that this all gets upended again, all the current players will be gone (or at least out of media world), and maybe if we're really really lucky, we'll final

              • I built a HTPC a few years ago. I used a HTPC case, and it looks more or less like an audio receiver from the outside. When I have people over who see Windows on the TV, they often ask how I'm doing it. I point to the PC and they're shocked that it's a PC. My total cost was ~$500 for the entire shebang. On one hand, it's a little less couch friendly than a Roku or AppleTV, but I've never found content that I can't get to it. While the interface might not be simple enough to control with a 6 button rem
    • by Dynedain (141758)

      Simple answer:

      Computer UIs universally suck for sitting 6-10 feet away on a couch. Keyboard and mouse (even wireless) is a pain compared to a single-hand remote.

      The best UI I've seen in this space is still Windows Media Center, but MS is systematically killing it off. So, when my HD died on my HTPC last weekend, I replaced the whole box with a $99 top-of-the line Roku. A replacement HD would have been about $100, Win 8.1 license is $120, and then another $100 to get Windows Pro Pack with Windows Media Cente

    • by mu51c10rd (187182)

      Not everyone wants a game console or PC tower sitting next to their TV. Also, having a streamlined deivce with a great UI makes sure the support calls are removed from the rest of the family. Who wants to tell their 10 year old for the 50th time to turn on the PC first and log in before using the TV? Also, I prefer to have a TV mounted on the wall with no entertainment center. These type of devices fit very well without sitting on the floor or running cables to nearby furniture. There is definitely a market

    • actually this market makes perfect sense to me.
      a $100 device that does everything i need on my tv that i can replace every few yrs is appealing.
      what doesn't makes sense to me is the smart tv market.
      the tv will last a decade. the smart part is outdated at purchase time.

      old pcs and consoles are not replacements for various reasons relating to cost, noise, size, power use, and maintenance.

    • by Silvrmane (773720)
      You can stream to a Chromecast from your PC? News to me. The only thing it seems to be able to do is to show you stuff on your TV that you could watch on your phone or tablet. It's a pretty useless device.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Chromecast felt odd to me when I tried it out. It might be fun for a group of friends to share stuff on a tv, but as an entertainment device it is clumsy. No UI of its own so you're dependent on poor quality phone apps. And a computer is likely to be in another room. Ie, turn on the TV, turn down the lights, then you're interrupted and fumbling around for the pause on the phone. It really needs a remote control.

    • Consoles and PCs chew power and spit out noise. Even a Blu-ray player is 10-15x the size of a Roku, and would either require an upper-tier player for wireless connectivity or an external adapter. My Roku also supports more video sources than my Blu-ray player does. In my case, I've got 2 TVs. One has a network run, the consoles, etc. The other is in my bedroom with just a Roku and a (older, non-smart) Blu-ray. With no extra wires, I've got a setup that's silent, cheap, small, and remote-controllable. A Chro
  • by Ichijo (607641) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:16PM (#46641365) Homepage Journal

    1. The scroll wheel beats both Chromecast's software slider and Roku's remote, but it's still no substitute for proper chapter stop buttons.

    2. No H.265 support means this model of FireTV will become obsolete later this year.

    • by tepples (727027)
      I thought H.265 was mostly for devices that support 2160p video. Since when has Amazon announced plans to stop streaming in H.264 to its existing Kindle Fire tablets that support H.264?
    • 2. No H.265 support means this model of FireTV will become obsolete later this year.

      I think you may be exaggerating somewhat. Virtually nothing has H.265 support right now. Are you seriously suggesting every single electronic device capable of playing video will magically become "obsolete" in a few months? We'll all have to throw out our smartphones and tablets and PCs and media players and TVs? Are the landfills going to be overflowing with 250 million discarded LCD screens?

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      • by Ichijo (607641)

        Virtually nothing has H.265 support right now. Are you seriously suggesting every single electronic device capable of playing video will magically become "obsolete" in a few months?

        When a new model of a device gains H.265 support, the old model will become obsolete.

        • None of the streaming providers like Netflix are just going to "turn off" the old, non-H.265 streams just because one device gets them. And since none of them are even using them at all right now, I'd say we have many years before Netflix will phase them out (if ever - they still have non-adaptive streams and older interfaces for legacy devices, which still work just fine) .

    • by HaeMaker (221642)
      I think you mean no HDMI 2.0... Since h.265 is software, and could be added with a software update.
  • International? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:16PM (#46641373)

    Apart from Netflix, which is already available on a lot of devices, is there any point in buying a Fire TV in other countries? Even Canada doesn't get things like Hulu or Amazon Streaming.

    I don't think the Fire TV will sell at all outside of the USA.

  • I need something that will play iTunes. AppleTV and homebrew fiddly options are out. I need it to just work.

    Also, I'd love to watch what happens when the voice recognition is active and you tell some "go fuck yourself". Will it immediately search for and start playing porn?

    • Empty set (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Does it talk to proprietary software? I need it to talk to proprietary software, but the already available option from same proprietary software vendor is out. I need it to just work."

      0 rows returned.

    • I don't understand why you're using iTunes but you won't buy an AppleTV. If it's because of the lack of support for esoteric file formats like DivX and MKV, you should buy a 2nd-generation AppleTV and jailbreak it.

  • Not sure what the point of these devices are...turning tvs into smart tv's might make sense but eventually...everyone will just have a smart tv.

    Why put so much money into these devices? Even roku is being relegated to an app on many smart tvs

    • by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:23PM (#46641455)

      I'd rather replace/upgrade a $49 widget than a $500 TV.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Remember a couple years ago when 3D TV was all the rage? I wonder how many of those today are still being used for 3D movies, or how many 3D shows they watch over cable/satellite? Fads are temporary.

    • by CrankyFool (680025) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:28PM (#46641503)

      I won't pretend to give you a generalized answer, but rather answer it for myself and my household:

      (Context: I work at Netflix, which may make a difference so it's worth noting. That said, I'm back-end cloud systems, with nothing to do with consumer devices).

      I consume my media from several sources, including iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go.

      I could get a SmartTV that lets me access them, but IME, smart TV manufacturers move pretty slowly; I also think of my TV as just a large display, and imbuing it with more smarts makes it more painful and expensive to upgrade to something else. By focusing on modularity -- this TV is just a bunch of HDMI ports with a big screen -- it lets me optimize the TV for display, and use another device for content access.

      Which is why I prefer the AppleTV rather than a SmartTV.

      (We could have another conversation about AppleTV vs Roku or the Fire TV, but that's outside the scope of this particular comment thread).

      • I do it one step further. I use an Apple TV connected to a dumb computer display and convert audio with a tiny optical-to-RCA box for my headphones. There's no "TV" in the conventional sense in that setup.

    • I haven't seen a smart tv where the smart features are any good.

      I have a Roku 3 and it works great. Technology moves quickly though and when the Roku 4 comes out, I'd rather upgrade my $100 Roku box than my $1000 television.

      I will likely buy a Fire TV. We have a two television sets and because of the way one is mounted on the wall, it's a pain to connect and disconnect the Roku. So for me, it makes sense to have a second streaming device and for $100, this one seems like a pretty good deal.

      That said, I wish

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        roku has a new streaming stick that's $50. it plugs right into the back of the tv, but it needs a power cable.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I would love this DVR capability too. But I suspect it will never happen since this is Hollywood's greatest enemy (it's not even about piracy with them, it's about them losing control to the consumer). There is a new service starting out that some smart players are supporting that basically does a "cloud DVR" for broadcast TV (ie, your recorded shows are only in the cloud for a month I think, like a typical tivo usage). This company is already in litigation over this feature. Cloud based is dumb in my o

    • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:52PM (#46641747)

      turning tvs into smart tv's might make sense but eventually...everyone will just have a smart tv.

      That might work on the low end, but if you buy a $1000+ TV, you probably don't want to have to buy another one to replace it in a few years when the company stops updating the firmware or the SoC can't handle the latest video codec or whatever. Much better to use the expensive TV as a video monitor alone, and keep the fast-obsoleting stuff on a cheap external box.

    • Not sure what the point of these devices are...turning tvs into smart tv's might make sense but eventually...everyone will just have a smart tv.

      I used to think this way... but eventually bought an Apple TV. For home streaming, it's the only thing I've found that *always* displays the aspect ratio correctly for h.264 videos, no matter what it is. My LG smart TV (w/ Plex client) occasionally choked some movies that had oddball pixel dimensions, as did my TiVo (using several different tools).

      It's also simpler to use than the TV's built in streaming tools, which is kind of sad.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      No, because smart TVs are inherently time limited. So are these small boxes, but you can replace small box much more cheaply than you can replace a $700 TV. And even then many smart TVs are very limited in what they support. Whereas every year the streaming players are improving and adding features, making licensing deals with services, and so forth.

      I just got replaced a 16 year old TV (which was used when I got it) and I definitely plan to keep the replacement TV a loooong time.

  • by JonBoy47 (2813759) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:23PM (#46641443)

    Regarding the assertion that you should just use a game console or old PC, many people don't game seriously enough to warrant a $400+ game console, and don't want to uglify their TV setup, or deal with the kludge factor of a PC-based solution.

    That said, this thing retails for $100, which means it has no price advantage over Apple TV, and there are several Roku models (not to mention Chromecast) that undercut it. The purchase also oddly does not include the game controller, which seems more or less a necessity to play the games, which is positioned as a major selling point of the unit. As it is, there seems no compelling advantage over existing set-top streaming boxes.

    This would have been much more interesting if it had included the game controller and a pack-in game at the $100 price point (Minecraft, anyone?) of if they had done a more minimalist device a la Chromecast with its own remote, that they could have thrown in as a freebie for all their Prime members, to offset the recent Prime price bump...

    • by JonBoy47 (2813759)

      As someone who already owns a Roku 1, a WiiU (for the kids) and several iOS devices, I can find no compelling reason to get this thing, even though I have Prime.

      • As someone who already owns a Roku 1, a WiiU (for the kids) and several iOS devices, I can find no compelling reason to get this thing

        The compelling reason is if your kids find a particular game they want you to buy and its web page says something like this:

        Windows: Buy Now
        Linux: Buy Now
        OUYA: Buy Now
        Google Play: Buy Now
        Fire TV: Buy Now
        Wii U: We are seeking a publisher. If you represent a licensed publisher that is interested in bringing this game to Wii U, contact us.

        • Ah but most indie games and developers suck. The best indie games can/will hit various consoles eventually, all you have to do is wait.

          And you still focus WAY too much thought on the "kid market".

      • its just so cheap that it kind of begs the question of why not if u have any unconnected tv in your home.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @02:33PM (#46641537)

    I guess this solves the mystery as to why Amazon never batted any eyelashes towards Chromecast.

  • Just get a CuBox-i [solid-run.com]. 2"x2"x2" cube, available in three editions [cubox-i.com]. The quad-core with 2 GB of RAM version that's equivalent to this Amazon thing is $130 and it has a microSD card slot, so you can fill it with as much or as little flash memory as you feel like paying for. I run Android on mine, but it also boots any of several different Linux distributions. It doesn't come with a remote or a game controller, but it has USB, and the quad-core version has BlueTooth. All versions have an IR receiver. No Amaz

    • That's nice, but unless it's capable of streaming video from Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, et al, then it's not a replacement for the Fire TV. It's not actually that hard to build a "media streaming" box that no commercial services support. The CuBox is very easy on the eyes, but it's aimed at an entirely different application than the one under discussion.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> All versions have an IR receiver.

      I would much rather see support for 802.11, bluetooth or even X10 built-in instead of IR.

      I wish manufacturers would finally kill IR off in favour or some wireless-based protocol.

      I use an X10-based remote at home on my mythtv box, but it would be great if someone made a physical remote that was wi-fi/IP-based.

      Yes I already know about the millions of phone apps, but I find controlling a TV setup via a smartphone isn't at all convenient.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      What the heck? $130 and no remote control? Why would anybody want to buy that?

  • by mu51c10rd (187182) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @04:14PM (#46642541)

    No DLNA? This is simply a less functional Roku device. At least you can do a custom channel to play local files. I wish WD TV would get an Amazon app...but it appears that door is closed with the release of this device. Amazon hasn't realized there are a lot of people with local files as well...not just online app accounts.

  • The big question is do games for the Fire TV require some special API or can any game from the Amazon game store work with it. Can regular Android apps be sideloaded onto it. If the answer is yes to both, then I could be interested...

  • Bought a Roku 3 Sunday, set it up last night, woke up to this on sale, never knew it was coming. What's the point of a surprise announcement? Why not build up some hype in advance? I probably would have waited for this instead (for the voice search and extra ram).

    Oh well, probably best not to get stuck in Amazon's ecosystem anyway.

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