With the Fire TV, Amazon entered an already crowded media streaming market, one that’s arguably dominated by Apple and Roku, but Amazon’s box has a few advantages that can help set it apart.
For the most part media streaming devices have the same features. There’s only so many media streaming services available, and only so many things you can do with a tiny box that connects to a TV. Amazon has to differentiate in other ways, ways that aren’t so much about content.
So how can Amazon make the Fire TV different?
How did you first hear about the Amazon Fire TV? Okay, there’s a good chance you heard rumors of the box for a long time, and you watched tech news sites as they liveblogged the event and posted their first hands-on. But if you visited Amazon’s website any time since the announcement you no doubt saw the letter from Jeff Bezos on the homepage introducing the device. Even now, two days later, the letter is still there.
The reach of Amazon really can’t be overstated. Even if the Fire TV has the same basic functions as Roku boxes, more people are familiar with the Amazon brand than Roku. Of course, that doesn’t help Amazon against Apple or Google, though.
One of the features Amazon doesn’t really seem like its touting too much is also one that could give it an edge against the Apple TV and Chromecast. Advanced Streaming and Prediction, or ASAP, sounds like a backcronym, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. ASAP is a feature that predicts what shows or movies you might want to watch next and preloads it onto the Fire TV so its available to streaming instantaneously.
Assuming the feature works and can accurately predict your tastes, it should cut the buffering times from your streaming. Buffering is a common complaint with the Apple TV, especially with customers of notoriously bad ISPs (Comcast and Time Warner, for example). By potentially cutting out buffering Amazon has a leg-up on the current Apple TV.
The last thing the Fire TV has going for it is more of a promise than anything else at the moment. With the ability to play some Android games the Fire TV is almost like a better version of the Ouya, albeit one without Towerfall (also known as the only reason to own an Ouya). Sev Zero looks like it could be a cool game, but so far it’s the only exclusive game on the platform.
Amazon is trying to build up its gaming efforts, though. It recently bought Double Helix, the developer behind the Xbox One version of Killer Instinct, and the Strider reboot on all consoles. There’s also been reports that Amazon is looking around the video game industry to beef up Amazon Game Studios. Not to mention AppStream which looks tailor-made for streaming games to the box.
With the right talent in Amazon Game Studios and enough publishers or developers using AppStream the Fire TV could be an interesting, and rather inexpensive, video game console in addition to a media streamer. Though a game controller that doesn’t look like a rejected OnLive controller design would be nice.
Is it enough?
Even with its advantages, there’s no guarantee the Fire TV will succeed against Apple, Google, or even Roku. Some of its features are neat, but not exactly game-changers, while others won’t appeal to everyone. If the Kindle and Kindle Fire proved anything, though, it’s that Amazon is willing to iterate over a few generations even if the first one doesn’t exactly blow away the competition.
What do you think sets the Fire TV apart? What would make you actually buy one over another streaming set-top box?