Amazon announces Fire TV

amazonfiretvThe new box, announced today, does TV and movies, music, and gaming. The Fire TV box is shipping for $99. Fire TV runs on Amazon’s custom Android-based OS. Inside you’ll find a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM (which Amazon says makes it three times as powerful as Apple TV, Chromecast, or Roku), supports the requisite 1080p video output, and can do Dolby Digital Surround Sound over HDMI or optical audio out.

Fire TV includes a number of built-in apps. In addition to the obvious deep Amazon integration, Fire TV buyers will be able to stream Netflix, Hulu Plus, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Vimeo, NBA, MLN, Watch ESPN, Showtime, WWE, and more. Amazon’s WhisperSync service will sync your position across devices, just like the current Kindle Fire service. The WhisperSync position data is also used to pre-cache your shows so you can start watching instantly without having to wait for the stream to buffer.

What’s really cool is the remote. It’s a basic seven-button + direction pad affair, connecting to the Fire TV via Bluetooth. But it also includes a microphone for voice controls so you won’t have to yell at your TV across the living room to search for things by voice.

Fire TV leverages IMDB for Amazon’s X-Ray feature. Music streaming will come next month, including Pandora, iHeart Radio, TuneIn Radio, and music that you’ve purchased from Amazon. X-Ray works with music as well, so as the song plays you can read the lyrics (that can be quite useful these days). There’s also a Free Time zone with a kid-friendly interface and parent-customizable white-listing, so television babysitting can be made even easier, especially so with all of the kids content that Amazon has acquired the rights to as of late.

And there is gaming. The Fire TV will use the game controller that was leaked a few weeks ago (will be available separately for $39.99 and includes 1000 Amazon Coins) and support thousands of games, including titles from Ubisoft, Gameloft, Disney, Double Fine, EA, and Sega. Amazon Game Studios will also be creating their own games for Fire TV. The average price of games will be about $1.85, with more than 1,000 free-to-play games also available.

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