Amazon’s Fire TV was launched last week and I spent all weekend playing with it. I mostly used Amazon Prime and Netflix and found the device amazingly good. With a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at its heart, this product screamed and for $100, particularly for folks looking to cut the cord to their cable company, it is as much of a game changer as the Kindle was for reading. Strangely the device reminds me a lot of the early iPod and Palm Pilot products because it is incredibly simple and intuitive to use and set up. Let me walk you through it.
One of the first things you can’t help but notice is that this thing is tiny. A little smaller than 2 stacked CD cases it takes up almost no space and you could likely tape it behind you TV if you wanted. It uses an RF remote so you don’t have to be in line of site and the remote isn’t confused by other remotes or sunlight as is often the case with more common IR remotes. Performance is in line with a top line tablet or smartphone thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon solution which also provides a MIMO WiFi capability (this adds both range and bandwidth critical to a streaming device) if you don’t want to use the included wired Ethernet component. It also has both an HDMI and an optical port in case you don’t have an HDMI receiver and want high quality sound. It took me about 15 minutes to unpack, plug it in, and get it started. It does take about 10 minutes to do software updates once on the network (all automated) and then it is ready to go.
Its size means you could pack it easily and plug into a hotel TV, assuming the hotel has decent bandwidth, this could be an amazing travel solution as well. And with the optional wireless controller (which didn’t arrive in time) it should be able to play a number of Android games that are controller enabled.
Perhaps the most amazing feature is the Voice Control feature in the product. It worked amazingly well for me and would find programing based on either saying the title or the genre of the movie. Looking for Science Fiction, I located an amazing movie titled “Mr. Nobody” that I’d never even heard of and sucked me in. That movie, taking place in the future and looking back, surrounds a man who can see every alternative outcome for every major decision they have ever made starting with his choice, per birth, of parents. I also located the old series “Man From Uncle” (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) and binge watched the first 8 episodes. Each was found by simply talking to the remote then using the control wheel to select the title from a list that came up. The device sucked me in and I watched hour after hour of programming while I did projects around the house.
I’ve used a lot of voice control products over the years and, with regard to finding content, this was the best so far. If you get a chance you should try it out - but remember you have to hold the microphone button the entire time you are talking or it won’t work kind of like an old CB radio.
The device comes bundled with a variety of services, many of which I hadn’t used or seen before including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora TV, given the Fire TV is better, they should have an even better time with it.
Wrapping Up: A Window Into Our Virtual Future
The Kindle Fire TV is actually a magical device that I thoroughly enjoyed. At $100, even if you just used it when you traveled, it would be well worth it and if you are a Kindle user, you can even push content from your Kindle turning it into the best Kindle accessory in the market. I think though that this is just the beginning of a future where everything we currently run locally is streamed and all video programing and music will be streamed and the interface will be natural voice. We’ll be talking to our devices rather than yelling at them. Welcome to the brave new world of in-home entertainment and computing. It is amazing and magical.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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