Amazon steps up TV push with video device

2014-04-03 15:52
The TV is set to be the venue of a next generation tech dominance battle. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The TV is set to be the venue of a next generation tech dominance battle. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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New York - Amazon stepped up its battle for television viewers on Wednesday, unveiling a new media streaming device touted as simplifying the experience of watching video online.

The palm-sized Amazon Fire TV device, which connects to television sets, aims to boost the US online giant's efforts to capture viewers for its Prime Video service.

"It's a tiny box with huge specs," said Amazon Kindle vice president Peter Larsen at a New York event unveiling the device.

The box, along with a remote control device, also allows users to listen to music, and games may be played with a separate controller.

Larsen said existing devices "make streaming today too frustrating" and that Fire TV would simplify the experience.

Competition

One of the features highlighted by Amazon is voice search, allowing consumers to avoid the tedious task of searching for films or videos by punching letters into a remote control device.

The Fire TV box goes on sale to US consumers for $99, with the game controller sold at $39.99.

The device puts Amazon on track to challenge Google's Chromecast stick and the streaming media boxes from other groups such as Roku or Apple.

Amazon said the processor and graphics engine gives the device three times the power of rivals such as Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku 3 "so content loads faster and games run smoother."

Because it is an "open ecosystem", the device will allow consumers to watch video from rivals including Netflix and Hulu, Amazon said.

The new device is part of Amazon's strategy to expand from retail to multimedia, by leveraging its Kindle tablets and streaming video.

Consumers can rent or purchase over 200 000 movies and TV episodes from Amazon Instant Video.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said Amazon appears to offer "a compelling first box" for many consumers, with the unique features of voice search and gaming.

"It does all the video you would expect, does it smoothly, and makes it easy to navigate," McQuivey said.

"But the real future of TV for Amazon will have to go far beyond today's announcement.

"The company will eventually want to help you buy things in the living room. Amazon needs to get moving on this quickly."

According to the research firm eMarketer, there were 186.2 million digital video viewers in the US in 2013, an 8.5% increase from 2012.

That figure represented just more than three-quarters of all internet users.

Amazon said it has worked with game developers including Electronic Arts, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega to bring their games to Fire TV.
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