Amazon leaps into the living room

By on April 7, 2014

Amazon is preparing to take on Google and Apple in the crowded television set-top-box market with the launch of its Fire TV platform.

The battle lines have been drawn.

At the launch of Fire TV, Amazon has taken on Google and Apple in an attempt to become the “television distributor of the future”. As if Amazon doesn’t have its fingers in enough pies already.

Its weapon is a R1 000 television set-top-box, the size of a drink coaster, that will give instant access to more than 200 000 films, TV series, and games.

Kindle Executive Peter Larsen unveiled Amazon’s Fire TV in New York in a room decorated with comfy armchairs, bookcases, a flatscreen TV, bowls of sweets and even a popcorn machine. The message was clear: Amazon wants to take control of your living room.

It’s a pretty snazzy device. Slim. Matt black finish. Reminiscent of Apple TV but supposedly three times more powerful. Built on Android software, it can predict what you’ll watch and cue it up instantly. There is also a microphone in the Bluetooth-enabled remote for voice-activated search. According to Larsen, Fire TV will “make complexity disappear”.

The TV set-top-box is on sale immediately in the US (no word on availability in South Africa, or the rest of the world for that matter) and will link to Amazon Instant Video’s large library of films and TV series, as well as hosting media players from Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu. HBO Go is a no-go for now.

Fire TV is the logical next-step for Amazon, which has seen its staple DVD business decline and sales of its e-readers and Kindle HD tablets soar.

Amazon’s leap into the living room puts it head to head with Apple, which shipped about 10 million of its Apple TV set-top-boxes last year, and Google’s Chromecast. The move has been described as “the final piece in a three-way battle between America’s internet heavyweights for tomorrow’s TV screen”.


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