Amazon lights a Fire in living room with new TV set top box
Amazon has laid out its plan to leap from the internet into the living room with the launch of a TV set top box to stake a claim in a burgeoning battle ground already crowded with the likes of Apple and Google.
The company last night unveiled FireTV, a small black box that plugs into a flatscreen television and is operated by a remote control that, for the true couch potato, can understand verbal commands.
The launch means people can gain access to internet video sites such as Netflix and YouTube on their TV but will also allow users to play video games and play music over the web.
The device became available in the US yesterday and costs $99 but Amazon has not revealed plans to sell the device in the UK or other countries.
Amazon joins an active market for video streaming devices that cost the same or less as Amazon’s gadget, all of which are available to buy in international markets. Rival devices include Google’s Chromecast which has sold millions in the US and costs $35, the Roku Streaming stick costing $49.99 and the market leader, Apple TV, priced at $99.
However, Amazon’s television device will provide a more prominent showcase for the e-commerce giant’s slate of original programming, including shows such as Alpha House, a US political comedy starring John Goodman, that it has produced and is available exclusively through its Amazon Prime Video streaming service.
“Amazon’s move is essentially the final piece in a three-way battle between America’s internet heavyweights for tomorrow’s TV screen. It’s like Dr Pepper challenging the might of Coke and Pepsi,” said David Watkins, a director at Strategy Analytics.
Amazon also said it is using its position as the world’s leading online retailer to expand into new fields. “Because we’re selling millions” of set-top boxes already, we hear what’s working and we hear what’s not working,” said the Amazon vice-president, Peter Larsen, during a launch event in New York last night.
The company has increasingly moved into building hardware, such as its Kindle e-reading device and the Kindle Fire tablet.
Amazon has sold these devices as a loss, instead making money from selling media such as books, movies and music through the gadgets. It is rumoured that the retailer may also create its own mobile phone as part of this strategy.