Amazon has just announced its Apple TV competitor, dubbed ‘Fire TV’. You can buy it now from Amazon.com for $99. The product roughly resembles an Apple TV in size and shape, but is thinner by a few millimetres and has square (rather than rounded) edges. Spec-wise, Amazon claims it is three times as powerful as Apple TV or Roku. It runs on a quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The fireTV can stream video at 1080p over HDMI, alongside Dolby Digital surround sound.

Input comes via a Bluetooth remote that features a five-way directional pad and some ancillary buttons. The remote has an inbuilt microphone, so you can speak show titles to have it automatically search for them.

The UI is split: a row of content types down the left and a detail view on the right. Shows and films are presented as big tiles, with a focus on big images. Amazon offers recommendations of films as well as the traditional categories for ‘recently added’ and ‘new releases’ movies. Whispersync remembers your place in a film or TV show, so you can return at any time. This also syncs with Kindle Fire tablets.

Interestingly, Amazon is touting an ‘ASAP’ section. Amazon will predict what shows you want to watch and automatically queues them up in the background. This emulates a more traditional lean-back TV experience. There is also a ‘FreeTime’ section, which is a kids-specific section collating kids content; this hosts a ton of free content from channels like Nickelodeon and PBS.

The Fire TV supports a myriad of apps from approved vendors, like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, YouTube and others. fireTV is based on Android, so developers can port their smartphone and tablets apps over to the platform without minimum hassle.

Fire TV runs the latest version of Fire OS “Mojito,” which is based on Android, so it’s simple for developers to port their services and games over to Fire TV.

There is also a game hub, relying on the ‘dedicated’ GPU for graphics power. Amazon doesn’t seem to be presenting this as a games console replacement. The focus seems to be on playing smartphone and tablet games on your TV.

They run locally, but don’t expect necessarily AAA titles. Amazon says it will have thousands of games available for fireTV by next month, including some created by its own game studios. At their event, Amazon demoed a multiplayer shooter it had created, with rich visuals and multiplayer support. You can play titles via Amazon’s game controller (a $39 accessory), an iPad app or the Fire TV remote itself.

You can read the full press release here:

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apr. 2, 2014– (NASDAQ:AMZN)—Kindle revolutionized reading by making it possible to think of a book and be reading it in less than 60 seconds. Kindle Fire put the world’s largest selection of movies, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books, audiobooks, and magazines in the palm of your hand. In each case, Amazon integrates the hardware, software, and the content into an easy-to-use, seamless, end-to-end service for customers. Today, Amazon is excited to unveil its newest innovation—Fire TV, a tiny box that plugs into your HDTV for easy and instant access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, SHOWTIME, low-cost video rentals, and much more. Fire TV also brings photos, music, and games to the living room. Meet Amazon Fire TV at www.amazon.com/FireTV.

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One Response to “Amazon announces $99 Fire TV set-top box shipping today: automatic recommendations, voice search, games and more”