Amazon Fire TV set-top box streams content to HDTVs
Amazon wants a place in your living room - specifically on top of your TV.
The company on Wednesday introduced a $99 video set-top box called Amazon Fire TV to stream movies, TV shows, music and games from the Internet onto an HDTV.
Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price - people are going to love Fire TV, CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
Available immediately, the boxs features include voice search, predicting and buffering content for instant watching, and parental controls. People can watch shows from Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and WatchESPN. A separate $40 controller lets users play video games. Amazon said Fire TV games would average $1.85 each.
Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies Research International in San Jose, said the voice search might give Amazon a strong advantage over competitors Apple TV, Roku and Googles Chromecast.
With all the other ones, youve got to hunt and peck to type the name of the show you want, he said.
Tech companies large and small have been flocking to the fast-growing international subscription video-on-demand market, much to the chagrin of cable channels like HBO and Showtime. Telly, a San Francisco startup, recently inked a deal with Sony Pictures and Miramax to deliver content to countries including Saudi Arabia. Multimedia Research Group estimates that worldwide on-demand subscriptions reached 66 million in 2012, generating annual revenue of $4.7 billion.
Market research firm NPD Group estimates that there will be 202 million Internet-capable TV devices in U.S homes by 2015, a 44 percent increase from the 140 million at the start of 2013.
Apple is reportedly developing a beefed-up version of its once-maligned Apple TV. The company recently brushed off rumors that it will strike a deal with Comcast for faster Internet speeds. Such a deal would violate the concept of net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should give all content equal access to the network.
Amazon had long been rumored to be working on a device that would deliver video on demand. With Kindle and now Fire TV, Amazon is further transforming itself from an e-commerce firm to a full-service technology company, analysts say.
They showed their hand in that context when they started shipping tablets and e-readers, Bajarin said. Theyve gone way past their traditional roots, and now are basically a hardware and services company. Because of the need to control the middleware, they are also a software company.
Brett Sappington, director of research at Park Associates, said Amazons distribution network gives it a reach rivaled only by Apple and Google.
The other thing Amazon has going for it, is that everyone else seems to have started with a box and is trying to create a successful service, Sappington said. Amazon already has a successful service, Amazon Prime Video; theyve already found a measure of success in the content space. This lets them build on that.
James McQuivey, one of several analysts who attended Amazons introduction of Fire TV at an event in New York, tweeted that the 0.7-inch-high box is very thin, about the size of a small piece of toast.
McQuivey, author of Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, also seized on the voice commands as key.
Voice control is the next big battleground for digital titans, he tweeted.
Of Amazons claim that Fire TV is the easiest place to watch Netflix, McQuivey tweeted: Thems fighting words!
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @csaid