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Is Amazon Fire TV A Formidable Competitor In Family Entertainment?

amazon_fire_tv Amazon made a play for the increasingly crowded home entertainment arena by unveiling the $99 Fire TV video and game streaming device on Wednesday, with hopes of boosting its main online retail business over the long term. Amazon, which has been building its multimedia presence to tap the growing appetite for digital media, unveiled the device, which can stream content from Netflix Inc., Hulu and other services – much like Apple TV or Google Inc.’s Chromecast.

Fire TV also offers a prominent platform for Amazon’s own fast-growing streaming video service and a growing slate of original television programs and games.

With the square device that just about fits in the palm of one’s hand, Amazon jumps headlong into the heated competition for consumers’ attention and an estimated $70 billion TV advertising market in 2014.

Tech leaders from Microsoft Corp. to Apple Inc. are vying for space on TV, the traditional family entertainment center where Americans used to spend most of their leisure time. Family entertainment has changed, though, with the advent of the smartphone and tablet.

The device is one of several growth initiatives by Amazon, one of the world’s largest online retailers. It is investing heavily in building fulfillment centers worldwide to expand its same-day delivery and grocery service. Earlier this week, Amazon approved six original television shows.

Amazon is a latecomer to the fast-growing set-top box market led by Apple, and some analysts were disappointed the company did not undercut its rival’s price.

The market for devices like Apple TV is set to grow by 24 percent this year, according to Strategy Analytics.

But Amazon promised that Fire TV, available now on, would be more powerful and easier to use than Apple TV, Google Inc.’s much cheaper Chromecast and Roku Inc.’s streaming video device.

“When we look at the living room, how do we make the complexity disappear?” Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon’s Kindle unit, said at a New York event to launch the product.

Fire TV’s remote features a microphone that enables voice-activated search. Integrated with Hulu Plus, users have ability to watch Amazon shows from their Hulu account. Amazon indicated it may bring in other partners soon.

By next month, Fire TV users will have the option to play thousands of video games with a controller that costs $39.99.

Amazon decided to develop the device after reading customer complaints on its website about lagging performance, cumbersome search feature, and closed “ecosystems” on rival set-top boxes.

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