Amazon Says: You're Fired!
Amazon has banned two very popular products that compete with its new Fire TV product. Read on to learn about the Fire TV, and which products Amazon doesn't want you to know about…
Amazon Bans Fire TV Competitors
Amazon has banned Apple TV and Chromecast streaming video players from its site, lamely implying that they don’t “interact well with Amazon Prime Video.”
Of course, Amazon still sells dozens of TV sets that aren’t compatible with Prime Video, and the company could easily make its Prime Video app compatible with its competitors. But they’re competitors, so Amazon won’t sell them.
A few weeks before the ban, Amazon introduced a new version of its Fire TV streaming box. The base price is the same as the previous Fire TV box: $99 ($139 for the gamer’s edition that includes a game controller). You can order it now, but shipments won’t start until November 4. Here is what’s new in Amazon Fire TV.
Fire TV now supports 4K Ultra HD resolution, potentially providing four times as many pixels as 1080p HD (which Fire TV also supports). Of course, to view anything in 4K you’ll also need a still-pricey 4K TV set, and 4K programming is still relatively scarce. Even 4K fanboys in the tech media admit that most people won’t see a staggering difference between 4K and 1080p at normal viewing distances. (See my related article Is It Time for 4K TV?)
Alexa, Amazon’s voice-actuated personal digital assistant, debuts in the new Fire TV. Initially, “she” is limited to the role of Voice Remote Control, helping users discover TV programs, checking weather or sports scores, and other functions focused upon TV content. Alarms, verbal reminders, and other functions found in Amazon Echo’s version of Alexa will be added later, says the company.
Using Alexa on Fire TV is a bit weird. Alexa is not “always listening,” which may appeal to the tinfoil-hat crowd. When you want to talk to “her,” you must press and hold a button on the physical remote. Other voice-actuated streaming devices don’t require you to hold the button down while talking.
What's Playing on Fire TV?
Amazon’s on-screen browsing and search still leave a lot to be desired. “Smart” recommendations and sorting are missing from Netflix, for instance. Amazon separates TV search results by season, inexplicably, so you may see “Seinfeld” ten times in your search results. It can take a while to find the show you want. Search is also inconsistent about identifying content across apps. If a show is available on Hulu Plus, that information may or may not be hidden behind the “more ways to watch” tab.
Amazon has built a vast library of content for Fire TV: over 250,000 TV episodes and movies on Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, and Showtime Anytime, plus games, music, and apps; live TV on NBC News, NBA Gametime, and Sling TV, which includes ESPN, CNN, HDTV, AMC, A&E, Cartoon Network, and more.
Amazon also produces original programming But Fire TV still doesn’t have a YouTube app, and YouTube is an important source of 4K programming. Could the fact that Google runs Youtube have anything to do with that?
The new Fire TV box is noticeably faster than its predecessor and the Fire TV USB stick, thanks to a quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. It also supports Bluetooth headphones. A bigger remote control is harder to lose in the couch cushions.
Overall, the new Fire TV makes sense if you already have an Amazon Prime membership, which includes all the TV content. 4K support is of interest only to those who own or plan to buy a 4K TV set. Alexa is probably the most significant benefit; it’s never easy to type on TV remote controls.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 Oct 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Amazon Says: You're Fired! (Posted: 16 Oct 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved