Amazon takes on Apple and Google with set-top box

Amazon is to take on the likes of Apple and Google in the race to dominate the living room with a new streaming box called Fire TV, a device that allows users to transform their television sets into smart TVs.

Amazon Fire TV
Amazon unveiled Fire TV at an event in the US today (2 April).

The $99 (£59.50) set-top box allows users to access a video library, movies, games, apps, photos and a kids’ section. Launch partners include Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and games from the likes of Disney, EA and Ubisoft. 

Amazon used its launch event to pick out some of the issues with competitor streaming boxes, such as buffering and closed ecosystems from the likes of Apple. It claims to have countered these problems in Fire TV with superior hardware and by using an Android based operating system, allowing developers to easier port over their apps. Fire TV carries technical specifications it claims outscore the rest of the products on the market, including a quad core processor, 2GB of RAM and dual-band WiFi.

Another additional feature that sets the device apart from others in the market is “X-Ray”, which allows users to surface information about the actors starring in the films they are watching or lyrics from the songs they are listening to. Music partners include Pandora, iHeartRadio and Amazon’s own music service. 

Amazon also pointed towards a new feature called ASAP which predicts the movies and TV episodes users would want to watch and buffers them for instant playback as a key differentiator. 

The company made no mention of whether some of the services are likely to be ad-funded. The company’s worldwide net ad revenues grew 34.9 per cent to $718.3m in 2013, according to eMarketer.

The launch comes less than a month after Google launched its own £30 streaming device, Chromecast, in the UK. 

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