Live Blog From Amazon’s Big Media Console Event

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Amazon is amped up right now. The company has set up shop in New York’s Meatpacking district to announce what we all expect is a media streaming device for TVs.

Will it include gaming functionality? Will it be a dongle that competes with Chromecast? Will it come with a free Amazon Prime Instant Video subscription?

We’re here to answer these questions for you, from oversized chairs right near the stage.

Grab some popcorn, sit back, and watch the magic unfold.

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:52 am

We’ll be hitting you with a hands-on videos and imagery very shortly in another post. Thanks for tuning in. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:52 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:52 am

Alright, we’re shutting this bad boy down. 

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You’ll see it this week. 

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It’s funny. 

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They’re showing the new commercial with Gary Busey. 

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Shipping today. 

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$99

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Just waiting on price of the box. 

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Doing a wrap up of features… looks like we’re getting close to the end. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:49 am

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:49 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:49 am

Our approach at Amazon with hardware business is to offer premium products at non-premium prices. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:48 am

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:48 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:47 am

We’re watching another video. What customers think of the FireTV so far, in a highly produced commercial. Not worth sharing it with you, dear readers.

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I wonder if there are any multiplayer games, that let you play on the TV with remote and controller? 

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“With FireTv, I think customers will like what we’re offering.” 

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Ok it’s over. They look pretty cool. 

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One looks A LOT like the Lion King. Another reminds me of Donkey Kong. 

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Sneak peek for more Amazon original games. 

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Mix of tower defense and a shooter. There you go. There’s also multiplayer mode with FireTV and the tablet. 

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They turned up the volume and turned down the lights for their own gaming trailer. 

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There are weapons and battlefields, and it looks set in space. 

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Looks like Halo? I don’t know. 

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Amazon Games Studios are building games right now for FireTV and Kindle Tablets. The first one is called Sev Zero. 

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If you buy 25 games in a year, you still won’t have spent $50. 

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Price of games on FireTv. Average price is $1.85 for a paid game. 

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He reminds us that this is all happening on a tiny little streaming box. 

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He’s racing in a new Bugatti!!!!

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Asphault 8 is the next game demo. Showing it on a big screen TV. This could be really cool. 

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He’s using the FireTV remote in this game. 

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It’s an endless runner. 

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Another game, Monster University game. 

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MINECRAFT comes to FireTv. 

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Doing a game demo. 

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It looks much like that prototype we saw, and costs $39.99, and comes with 1,000 Amazon Coins. 

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“It’s comfortable and familiar”

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Some customers are going to want to play a lot of games, for a lot of hours. The Fire Game controller is real! 

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Also created an app that lets you use phones and tablets as a controller. Be available next month. 

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By next month, we’ll have thousands of games available to play. Some options: use the FireTV remote to play. 

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Worked with EA, Disney, GameLoft, Ubisoft, 2K, etc. 

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“we wanted to build a streaming media device that would let users play a wide variety of games.” 

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Now we’re delving further into gaming. 

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He’s citing complaints from users with competing devices. 

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These customers go to smartphone or tablet to play games there, but they’d love to play on a TV. 

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People don’t have gaming consoles because they can’t afford them or don’t want to pay for them. 

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One more extra… or bonus: GAMING

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No reason to play sheriff in the living room anymore. 

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Also offering FreeTime Unlimited. an “all you can eat” subscription, with content from PBSKids, nickelodeon, etc. high quality content. 

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He’s just kind of going on and on about the time limit. 

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It also has character search. 

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It also sets up the kid with their own profile. 

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“FreeTime” is another feature. Custom built environment for kids, aged 3 to 8. it’s already present on Amazon tablets, and lets kids have a time limit for when and what they can do on the device. 

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Xray for music? Will be coming to the FireTv. It shows lyrics in sync with the song. 

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Music. So far there is already Pandora, iHeartRadio and Amazon music. 

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A couple features that will be available on FireTV next month: 

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So I was mistaken. It’s not available on the FireTV itself, but syncs with your Fire tablet to offer Xray for what you’re watching. 

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Using Xray on FireTV, you can get a notification on your Kindle Fire tablet that automatically gives you Xray access. 

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Xray gives you extra information about the content you’re looking at, like actors, directors, etc. 

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They also included Xray for TV and Movies on the FireTV. 

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He is showing how to set up a screen saver. Not really an extra. Pretty standard on a smart TV device or dongle. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:29 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:29 am

The photo just popped into the Photos category. 

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Using CloudDrive, an Amazon free app, the photo “seamlessly uploads in the background to the cloud.” 

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“Smartphone is best place to take your photos, but TV is the best place to look at them.” 

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Some extras they packed in: A photos experience. 

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So he covered his three points: performance, open ecosystem, and search. “but we didn’t stop there!” 

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Rejected a question from the audience… “Can it be filtered for only things that are free?” 

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Using voice search for genres. “Princess movies.” It had an error. Didn’t like that one. But it worked on the second try. 

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You can also add movies to your watch list, and shows, too. 

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He’s doing another voice search example. 

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He’s talking about how fast the voice search is. 

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He’s choosing really weird show and movie titles, proving that the voice search is pretty accurate. At least, it’s accurate for him. 

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There is a microphone deeply integrated into the controller. Let’s you speak your query. 

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Voice-enabled search in the remote. !!!! WHOA

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We’re heading back to search now… 

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“This isn’t a closed ecosystem.” 

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That’s all of FireTV, not just Amazon’s own stuff. Obviously. 

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When you add all this up, over 200,000 titles to buy and rent from Amazon. Biggest in the world. 

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Now they’re just plugging their shows. 

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“Customers are loving these shows.” 

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This video is going a few minutes too long. Let’s go. 

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And five different Kids programs. 

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“Transparent” 

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“Mozart and the Jungle.” 

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“Bosch”

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I don’t recognize any of the other ones. “The After” is one. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:20 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:20 am

Hey Alpha House is coming back. 

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Amazon Studios are rolling out new shows this fall, so that’s also another way to add new content. Big push from Amazon on original content right now. 

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Bringing on tons of new partners soon. 

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Like Fanhattan. 

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Best Value Buy box, on FireTV. You can buy a show from Amazon Instant Video, or watch for free on Hulu+. In other words, they offer lowest cost option to watch a show on your FireTV. 

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Tons of other partners, too. 

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What can you watch? Netflix, Pandora, Hulu+, Showtime, MLB, NBA, Watch ESPN, and of course, Amazon Instant Video. 

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It learns what you’re most likely to watch and cues it up. 

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Play is instantaneous. In the same second you press play, the show begins. No loading screen whatsoever. It’s a feature called ASAP. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:17 am

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Curious about other media partners. Without them this thing is worthless, IMHO. 

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Recently watched content has it’s own category, and it holds your spot in every show. Pretty standard stuff here. 

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All your Amazon content is already available and ready to watch once you set it up. 

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“The interface isn’t something you have to learn. It comes naturally.”

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You can fast scroll through movies… “where performance really comes into play.” 

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Runs a FireTV OS. Content is “front-and-center”

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It has bluetooth in it. Clicking the remote from anywhere lets FireTV respond, so you have nothing to aim at. 

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The remote is “small, elegant, and very easy to use. Has a ring like Apple TV, but six bottom buttons like a Roku remote. 

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1080p content. Dolby Digital+ Surround Sound out. 

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Thinner than a dime. 

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FireTV has 3x the performance and power of Apple TV, Roku 3, and Chromecast, according to Amazon’s calculations. 

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Third performance issue: the network itself. FireTV has dual-band, dual-antenna MiMo Wifi, so things start streaming immediately. 

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FireTV has 2GB of RAM. “everything starts more quickly,” he says. 

Anthony Ha April 2, 20148:13 am

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:12 am

Hints toward gaming? 

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FireTV has a quad-core processor, best in class. It also has a dedicated GPU, the kind usually found it smartphones. Processes 57 billion floating point operations per second. 

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We’re going to talk about performance first. Three performance bottlenecks jumped out at them. 

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Love being a blogger. 

Jordan Crook April 2, 20148:11 am

ONE MORE THING: WE ALL TAKE ONE HOME TODAY!! WOOHOO!

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It’s the best place to watch TV and movies from the comfort of your own home. 

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Tiny, powerful, and simple. 

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It’s a set top box, and it looks just like an Apple TV. It’s called Amazon FireTV. 

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So, when we looked at the living room, we took the same approach. How do we make the complexity disappear. 

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He talks about Amazon’s history doing this. Connecting a mouse to a brown box that arrives on your doorstep. Battery life is recorded in months and not hours with a Kindle Reader. Airline passengers can use their Kindles in the air, as well as other devices. And “Mayday” which revolutionized customer support. 

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Coming back to these three big problems, he explains that Amazon wants to “invent and simplify” for their customers. 

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Hard for me to believe that this is a true complaint people have, but he’s explaining how Samsung Smart TVs and Apple TVs are too closed. 

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The third problem: A closed ecosystem. 

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“Customers shouldn’t have to tolerate laggy performance anymore.” 

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Once you finally figure out what to play, it doesn’t work. He shows the dreaded spinning wheel of death on Apple’s TV when it can’t load something. 

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Problem 2. Lagging performance. 

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He’s just going over more “search is hard” complaints. “There is a lot of work left to do in search.” 

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He whipped out a Roku and is searching for John Malkovich. It took a while. 

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1. Search is too hard. 

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Three frustrations we hear all the time: 

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“We’re selling millions of these devices on Amazon everyday. We hear about what’s working and not working.” 

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Citing Netflix’s user numbers now. Mentioning that Hulu is also investing in the content space. “It’s clear customers love this content, and they’re watching it on streaming media devices.” 

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350 percent, explosive growth. 

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Amazon video users grew exponentially in 2011 “because of original content” 

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Lights are dim. 

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Show of hands, who thinks Amazon’s media offering will be a better value proposition than a Roku or a Chromecast? 

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Unfortunately, that means we don’t have a lot of spots to sit. But yo ho ho, it’s a blogger’s life for me. 

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They have some pretty upbeat, poppy music playing while scenes from famous movies play on screens. The place is set up like a living room, with over-sized, hipster chairs everywhere.