At long last, Amazon has joined the set-top streaming space. As expected, at New York press conference Wednesday, the company unveiled its long-rumored video streaming
device, Fire TV, to compete with other services such as Apple TV, Roku and Google
Chromecast. Until now, Amazon was largely dependent on such devices for its streaming video service.
What sets Fire TV apart from the rest? Priced at $99 and available now, Fire TV also includes a gaming component, which gives it an edge over the competition. The device will also include a Voice Search feature, and the minimalist interface operates much in the same way as its competitors, allowing access to Fire TV streaming partners Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Showtime as well as the wealth of streaming content already available on Amazon Video. (Needless to say, no HBO Go, which remains entrenched in the Warner Bros. ancillary windows paradigm.)
Fire TV also comes furnished with X-Ray, previously only available on Kindle Fire tablets, which provides info from IMDb about actors and directors as you're watching a film. While features like this, and Fire TV's cloud-to-screen photo streaming service, already exist for Xbox and Google devices, here's something different: Fire TV is also a karaoke machine, complete with music and lyrics. And Amazon is looking at making mobile apps available as well, which would make Fire TV the first of its kind.
To stay competitive with other streaming subscription services -- Apple TV alone brought in $1 billion in revenue last year -- Amazon nabbed a passel of exclusive TV series (as of April 1, Amazon Prime is the only place you can watch Fox's "24"), while Hulu picked up a slew of NBC-Universal exclusives including Golden Globe-winning "Brooklyn Nine Nine" -- you'll be able to watch all of those on Fire TV.