Online retail giant Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) announced its long-rumored streaming device this morning: Amazon Fire TV, a set-top box that Kindle VP Peter Larsen said is three times as powerful as competing devices from Chromecast, Roku or Apple TV (Nasdaq: AAPL). The device retails for $99 and will ship starting today.
Amazon's set-top box starts shipping today.
At a press event in New York, Larsen said the Fire TV has a quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM to speed up processing and caching. It also has dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi with MIMO. A game controller is also available for an additional $39.99, an interesting component to what is ostensibly a high-powered streaming device.
Larsen discussed three pain points common in other devices like Roku and Apple TV prior to showing off Amazon's new box. Kludgy search interfaces, slow performance and closed interfaces that, for example, keep Apple TV owners from watching Prime Instant Video.
"We're selling millions of streaming media devices on Amazon.com ... we hear what's working, we hear what's not working," he said, according to a live blog of the event by The Verge.
The device will support several streaming apps including Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), Hulu, WatchESPN, MLB, Crackle, MLB, Vimeo, NBA and YouTube, with more promised. Music apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and music subscribers have bought from Amazon.com will be available starting next month.
Additional features include support for Amazon's Whispersync, which allows viewers to keep their place in shows when switching between TV and tablet, for example; and a predictive interface called ASAP that suggests titles based on subscriber viewing choices.
Notably, the Fire TV's remote control includes an integrated microphone, which Larsen says can be used to perform a voice search.
Amazon's move into the device market isn't a surprise. A streaming device has been rumored for over a year, with re/code noting that the company shelved its product late last year despite expectations that it would roll out a device around Christmas.
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