Amazon Announces Set-Top Box

The long-awaited Amazon set-top box was announced today. Called the Fire TV, it is immediately available to purchase for $99, and comes packed with many different features. From a basic stand point, it’s a streaming set top box. With apps like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, and NBA, the device will have many of the ways to stream content that users have wanted for some time. As expected, Amazon’s products have taken center stage, as Amazon Instant Video was pushed hard over all the other apps. To take advantage of the online streaming, though, Amazon has also included something called X-Ray, which is part second-screen device and part control system, much like Xbox’s Smartglass. Where it differs, though, is in the fact that X-Ray pulls in content from the Internet – for instance, if you’re watching a movie it will show data from IMDB. As well, Amazon’s ASAP feature predicts which episodes you’ll want to watch based on your history, and automatically adds them to a queue. There’s also a voice search integrated into the remote, looking to compete directly with things like Apple’s Siri.

But it’s more than just a TV streaming device. There are also games: Amazon announced a suite of games that it has developed in house, with an additional controller available for $39.99. The games, however, are designed to be cheap, priced at $1.85 per game. Competition for the living room is fierce, and is only heating up. Whether Amazon gets people to purchase its device at a lower price – for the gaming, the streaming, or both – will be a key indication that it lower prices in the field could undercut the wider living room device industry at large. Either way you slice it, though, Amazon’s foray into the living room means that companies like Roku and Plex need to look over their shoulders.