Amazon Says: You're Fired!

Category: Television

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?)
Amazon Fire 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?

Just because a product is banned on Amazon, that doesn't make it go away. Chromecast lets you "cast" what's on your laptop, tablet or Android mobile device to a big-screen HD TV. That includes Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and other content displayed in your Chrome browser. Apple TV is a media player that can stream video content from both your computer (iTunes) or the Internet (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)

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...

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Most recent comments on "Amazon Says: You're Fired!"

Posted by:

Smoky Lowe
16 Oct 2015

I like the fact that Amazon wont knuckle to the two high and mighty over priced competitors.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you mean the $35 Chromecast?

Posted by:

Dave Roche
16 Oct 2015

Who cares? According to a large Supermarket chain in my neck of the woods, Chromecast is selling so fast off the shelves they just cannot keep up with the demand for it.

Posted by:

Jerry C
16 Oct 2015

Fire TV has had a very good YouTube app since launch, I have it, and of course Twitch. There are apps on Fire TV that let you stream from NAS as well as other devices on your network. Given all this Roku is still the one to get if you want Vudu. I found this out after I got the Fire TV so I got a Roku 1 just for Vudu since I have movies there. My suggestion is get a Roku 3 it has everything on Fire TV +.

Posted by:

Steve Stein
16 Oct 2015

Your article notes that "4K programming is still relatively scarce" and refers to an earlier article on 4K TV. How ironic that I received this after reading today's article from my local cable/internet provider up here in the Great White North (Toronto area):

Get ready for Rogers IgniteTM Gigabit Internet and 4K TV.

Announcing Rogers Ignite™ Gigabit Internet & 4K TV.

Expect faster speeds and sharper images than ever before.
Access online content faster than ever before and watch your TV leap to life! Because you’re a current Rogers TV and Internet customer, we wanted you to be the first to know about two new services coming soon – Rogers IgniteTM Gigabit Internet and 4K TV.
Experience the fastest internet speeds available to the most
Canadians1 with Rogers Ignite Gigabit Internet. Gigabit speeds are
coming soon to a neighbourhood near you. Plus, enjoy razor sharp
picture quality with Rogers 4K TV, which offers 4 times the
resolution of HD TV2.
Beginning this spring, you’ll be able to watch TV and movies, plus every 2016 Toronto Blue JaysTM home game and other marquee SportsnetTM events in crystal clear 4K resolution. Plus enjoy HDR on select games, a leading edge broadcast technology that delivers richer colour saturation, contrast and resolution for even more life-like images.

Posted by:

16 Oct 2015

Not surprising. Amazon discontinued support for its own Unbox Player, which allowed users to download digital video content purchased from Amazon to their PCs. Without Unbox PC users can only stream video they purchased. Seems like the purchase price only gets you a license to borrow.

Just business as usual for Amazon.

Posted by:

Malcolm De Winter
16 Oct 2015

For five years I've been using Roku which cost me originally $100 and I pay for Netflix and acorn. I'm sick to death of TV the commercials are insane. I cannot bear to have 15 commercial interruptions every five minutes. I cannot understand why the North American governments permit this atrocity. The Europeans don't why do we. However I cannot see any reason to get anything else apart from my Roku. I don't think I'm missing anything apart from complete and utter boredom.

Posted by:

Bob Parks
17 Oct 2015

I don't get it. Searching Amazon for Apple TV
Searching for Chromecast

Maybe these are not the newest?

Posted by:

Charles Eldredge
18 Oct 2015

I tried Amazon Prime twice. I wasn't impressed. The "free" content is very limited. Most of the shows you have to pay for per episode. Ridiculous. I also tried hulu plus. It's ok, but not as good as Netflix. Currently I use rabbit ears($10.89 @Best Buy)(they are better than the $40 versions), Netflix, and currently I'm trying Sling TV. I like the content on Sling, but so far it's not a very reliable player(pauses a lot and often loses the program entirely and when you go back you cannot pick up where you left have to watch from the beginning(ugh). And since I don't have home wiifi I use the "Screen Beam Mini 2" ($50 @Best Buy) to wirelessly mirror my phone screen to my tv. (Since my plasma tv purchased last year does not have MHL technology, which is required to use hdmi to usb cords for mirroring without wifi.)

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