Amazon Logo

The battle for the living room is heating up: E-commerce giant Amazon has finally forayed into home entertainment space by unveiling an Android-powered media streaming set-top box called Fire TV.

This will compete with other living room media streaming devices like Apple TV, Roku, Google’s Chromecast (sort of) and plethora of Android-based TV streaming media device EvoTV and Woxi Media’s SmartPod. But what probably set this apart from its competitors is that Fire TV also doubles up as a gaming console.

However, it’s worth noting that Microsoft is also targeting that market with its Xbox One console. There’s also 18th Parallel which is apparently working with various service providers in India and Europe to convert Android set top boxes into gaming consoles.

Another key differentiating factor for Fire TV would possibly be on the programming front: Amazon already has a video streaming service in form of Instant Video and is significantly investing in original TV programming through Amazon Studios which debuted two shows called Alpha House and Betas last year and greenlighted six new shows recently – The After, Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle, and Transparent, which is expected to be available starting later this year.

Fire TV

Quite similar to its competitors, Fire TV plugs into a HDTV allowing users to stream online content (videos, music, photos) over WiFi, although the focus seems to be on video content.

The set top box is 0.7″ thin and features a quad-core processor with graphics engine and 2GB of memory. It also comes with a remote control which has a built-in microphone. The company claims to stream HD movies and TV shows of up to 1080p resolution with 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.

Amazon Fire TV

Software: On the software front, Fire TV runs on Mojito, the third iteration of Amazon’s Android-based Fire OS. It has voice search which allows users to search for TV shows, movies, actors, directors, and genres through voice and a feature called ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) which aims to predict movies and TV episodes that user might want to watch based on their Watchlist & recommendations and pre-cache them for later playback.

Just like Chromecast, users can also send Amazon TV shows and movies from your phone or tablet using Second Screen service which is currently available only for Kindle Fire HDX and is expected to be available for iPhone or iPad later this year. One can also wirelessly mirror their Kindle Fire display on Fire TV with support for Miracast-enabled phones or tablets available later this year.

Fire TV Apps: Besides content from Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Studios, Fire TV will initially offer third party apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, WatchESPN, Showtime, Vevo and Crackle with more apps like WWE Network, MLB.TV, Disney Channel, ABC, and Twitch expected shortly.

On the music front, Fire TV will be offering Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn among others with Amazon Cloud Music coming next month. It will also offer Amazon Cloud Drive integration to enable users stream their photos or personal videos to the television. Other features include Amazon FreeTime, X-Ray information and Whispersync which we’ve seen on Amazon’s Kindle tablets and e-readers. It will also offer a 30-day free trial to its Amazon Prime program.

Gaming

Besides media streaming, Amazon also seems to be pushing Fire TV’s gaming capabilities, although Amazon officials have reportedly said it wouldn’t be competing against gaming consoles, rather it is targeting people who don’t own a gaming console and play games on their phones or tablets.

That being said, the company did launch a dedicated gaming controller called Fire game controller which is priced at $39.99. Amazon mentions that users can play these games either through this controller, through the Fire TV remote or the Fire TV app for smartphones and tablets.

Amazon Fire Game Controller

Fire TV Gaming Titles

At launch, Amazon claims to offer more than 100 gaming titles including Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2 and Despicable Me: Minion Rush among others with “thousands of game titles” arriving next month. Amazon mentions that it is working with game developers like EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega to port their gaming titles onto Fire TV.

Fire TV will offer a mixture of free and paid games to users with paid games starting at $0.99. The average price of paid games on Fire TV will apparently be $1.85, according to Amazon.

Amazon’s gaming studio Amazon Game Studios is also working on several original game titles for Fire TV, first of which is a third-person shooter/tower defense hybrid called Sev Zero and will be available for $6.99. More on the game and game trailer here.

The set top box is currently available on the Amazon US website for $99. What’s not clear though is whether Amazon has any plans to launch this set top box in other countries like India or it will turn out to be yet another US-only product. Note that Amazon is yet to extend its digital content offerings including Instant Video and CloudPlayer to India, although it has been aggressively ramping up its Indian e-commerce marketplace since its launch in August 2013.

Update: Headline changed