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Amazon enters the streaming box and video game market with the Fire TV

amazon-popcornAndroid-based micro consoles seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but when online retailer titan Amazon jumps on board, it’s big news. During an event in New York on Wednesday, Amazon announced and subsequently released the Fire TV, their entry in the war for living room entertainment.

The Latest for Streaming Entertainment

The Fire TV is a $99 Android-based micro console that allows you to stream movies and TV shows over the Internet to your television. We’ve heard the exact pitch before, but Amazon is in the position to offer services and features that competing devices currently don’t provide.

Amazon claims that the Fire TV is three times faster than competing boxes, such as the Roku and Apple TV. The Fire TV has a quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, and a dedicated GPU capable of 1080p HD video. It also supports Dolby Digital Plus surround sound via HDMI out. It connects to the Internet via either WiFi or Ethernet.

Fire TV is capable of voice search using the microphone built into its Bluetooth remote. Simply use your voice to search for specific movies or TV shows using keywords, such as actor or movie names. The Fire TV features integrated information from the Internet Movie Database and tablet integration via the Fire TV’s “X-Ray” feature, allowing you to view related movie information on your tablet device while watching said movie.

Other interesting features include a karaoke-esque music player that displays lyrics on screen, the ability to stream photos from your phone, and a parental control mode called FreeTime. FreeTime is a special mode that allows parents to control their children’s viewing experience by setting time limits or setting restrictions on what content is viewable.

The Fire TV will support the standard streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Pandora, with more to come. Certain services, such as HBO Go, are absent, however.

Despite being Android-based, Amazon is keeping the Fire TV a closed ecosystem, meaning it will make use of its own app store, separate from the Google Play Store. Amazon assures that they are partnering with multiple content creators to populate their store with a variety of different apps and entertainment items.

It Plays Games, Too!

amazon-gamepadAmazon is using the Fire TV as a means to break into the games market, as well. They are selling a separate $39.99 game controller. Amazon promises more than 1,000 games on their own marketplace, including games from Amazon themselves.

Over the past few months, Amazon has been picking up popular game developers, such as Double Helix, the studio behind the hit Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct. They’ve also recruited other high profile game industry professionals, including Portal creator Kim Swift.

Amazon Game Studios will be bringing exclusive games to the Fire TV. You can check out a preview of what’s to come in this video. Amazon is also working with third party game developers, including Electronic Arts, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, 2K, Sega, Double Find and Mojang. Versions of Minecraft and The Walking Dead were showcased at the New York event.

Amazon says that paid games will start at 99 cents, with the prices averaging at $1.85. Thousands of free-to-play games will also be available.

Even with this new emphasis on games, they are still a secondary focus for the Fire TV. Though the hardware is powerful, it is nowhere near the behemoths of the new generation video game consoles, such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The Fire TV is available now for $99 on Amazon’s online store. The device will come pre-registered to your Amazon account, along with a free month of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

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