Amazon Details Upcoming Fire TV Updates

Dave Zatz —  April 18, 2014 — 23 Comments

amazon-prime-roku

Amazon is out with a release trumpeting their stellar Fire TV reviews and announcing several welcome updates.

New Prime Browse
While Amazon touts blazing fast quad core Fire TV speeds, those gains are partially offset by inefficient browsing. Sure, the UI is quite attractive with box art and large icons, but good luck trying to simply find a listing of your Prime videos (as you easily can via the competing Roku pictured above). Well, good news, organization will at the very least be partially remedied in the near future via “Prime browse”

Voice Search To Expand
Voice search, via remote, is arguably Fire TV’s tent pole feature. However, at launch, only Amazon content and Vevo are officially supported. Amazon says we can expect “full catalog” Hulu, Crackle, and Showtime integration this summer. Unmentioned is Netflix … yet, as the 800lb streaming gorilla, I fully anticipate support is on the way (along with a current app) and that they warrant their very own press release.

Fire TV App
Another Fire TV complaint has been the lack of a smartphone and tablet app. Fortunately, Amazon says they’re on the way. While I 100% prefer a physical remote, with tactile feedback and easily shared, there are times when the second screen is particularly handy. Foremost, a touchscreen will solve the frustrating keyboard entry challenge of app registration and search (for all the properties yet not available via voice).

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23 responses to Amazon Details Upcoming Fire TV Updates

  1. Yes, Amazon MP3 support is incoming as well, in addition to many more apps and games… although I’m not quite sure what form it’ll take given the music service rumors and somewhat off Cloud Drive photo implementation. And, as I said elsewhere, Fire TV is the best way to watch Amazon content it’s not the best way to browse Amazon content – this upcoming Prime filter should help close the gap.

  2. If it gets DLNA support I’d pick one up in a second. I’ve got too much local content to get by without it these days.

  3. Definitely very good to see they’ve actually made the decision to broaden voice search to non-Amazon content. I had certain doubts if they were sure they wanted to go in that direction.

    And does the Fire really currently not have a Prime-only browse mode? I saw a screenshot up on Engadget that sure as hell seemed to show just that, but obviously I may have misinterpreted it.

    —–

    What I’m really curious about is HBO Go. And not just in terms of the Amazon box.

    Obviously, Amazon would like to include it, as they do on their tablets, but hasn’t, and isn’t promising it.

    Comcast won’t allow it via the Roku. Charter won’t allow it via Apple TV.

    And is the reason it isn’t on the TiVo roadmap really just about market share, or is it about MSO’s not wanting to help TiVo?

    I just can’t even begin to get my mind around what the various incentives and prohibitions are for the various players, including Time-Warner, the MSO’s, and the box makers. Unlike most issues in this space, I’m stuck in the Chewbacca defense zone, with my head exploding every time I try to think about it. It does not make sense.

  4. “If it gets DLNA support I’d pick one up in a second. I’ve got too much local content to get by without it these days.”

    Plex is your friend on the Fire.

  5. It’s not just about the voice search; their search in general is not universal.

    When I search for Mythbusters on my roku3, it lists every channel that offers Mythbusters. It searches across channels, and tells me which are paid and which are included in my streaming plan. The firetv needs to do the same thing. The roku3 also saves previous searches, not sure if the FTV does that.

    It also needs to list favorite media from inside the various channels. Instead of listing Netflix in my previous apps, it should list “Mythbusters”, because I was just watching it.

  6. “It’s not just about the voice search; their search in general is not universal.”

    Yeah. But what’s big (to me, at least), about this announcement is that they seem to be signaling that they’re going to move towards making search universal in general going forward, which I had my doubts about.

    —–

    “The roku3 also saves previous searches, not sure if the FTV does that.”

    Roku search really is the core goodness of the box.

    But I’ve still got a couple of reasonably major quibbles with the thing:

    - When you click-thru a search item, the back button really should take you back to the search. As things stand now, it’s a lot of clicks and a lot of time to get back to where you were in the search. It’s my biggest frustration with Roku search by far, and keeps me from doing things with search that I’d otherwise do.

    - As Roku seems to already understand, search would be incredibly handy on the mobile app. But they do need to roll it out to more of the product line.

    (Both quibbles from my Roku 2 XS. Things may or may not be different with the Roku 3.)

  7. “It also needs to list favorite media from inside the various channels.”

    Roku doesn’t do this either, of course. And TiVo seems as if they may have a patent on such functionality…

  8. You’re right, it doesn’t. The roku doesn’t have any concept of favorite anything, the FTV does. So it’s more obvious that the FTV’s implementation is limited.

  9. The Amazon Cloud Music player is what I really want. At least it’s coming soon. But it really should have been available at launch. The version on the Roku works great. But with the delay it better be superb on the FireTV, otherwise why bother making us wait for it?

  10. “What I’m really curious about is HBO Go. And not just in terms of the Amazon box. Obviously, Amazon would like to include it, as they do on their tablets, but hasn’t, and isn’t promising it.”

    Boom!

    (This doesn’t answer any of my other questions about the strategic goals of Time-Warner, the MSO’s, and the streamer box manufacturers, and how they all impact the utterly bizarre and inexplicable restrictions on HBO Go, but still, Boom!)

  11. Assuming your previous intel on an updated Amazon app coming to TiVo was correct, I really don’t think the HBO/Prime deal will derail that. Thinking otherwise is a fundamental misunderstanding of Amazon’s core principles, which is to have their services be hardware agnostic. They’d even happily put their video services on the Apple TV, if Cupertino would let them, which it never will. (Remember, they almost definitely have a positive margin in selling the Fire TV…)

    And what’s up with the guy complaining about the Amazon video UX? At least on the Roku, the Amazon video UX is best of breed of all the OTT services, IMHO. (Netflix is nice, and simple, and a worthy competitor for that title. But Amazon handles its more complex multiple functions of Prime, a-la-carte options, and your video library in a quite elegant manner.)

  12. Typo correction: Remember, they almost definitely don’t have a positive margin in selling the Fire TV.

  13. “Boom”

    Yup, at least one “mystery” is cleared up–why HBO Go wasn’t there at launch. Part of a larger deal that took longer to negotiate presumably.

    Anyway, good news all around. There’ll be an HBO Go app before the year is out (I’d hope earlier) and there’s a bunch of older HBO Go content coming to Prime. Which means I could in fact drop HBO for a while and just get by watching The Pacific or whatever for a bit. Certainly boosts Prime’s status in the world.

  14. “Yup, at least one “mystery” is cleared up–why HBO Go wasn’t there at launch. Part of a larger deal that took longer to negotiate presumably.”

    But even that one mystery, which is just a bit of the longer list of mysteries didn’t really get cleared up.

    - Did HBO Go use access to the app for FTV to semi-force Amazon into buying their old content. Did they get better financial terms from Amazon by using the HBO Go app?

    - Would HBO Go have been denied to the FTV without the content deal?

    - How, if in any way, will this content deal affect the willingness of the MSO’s to allow HBO Go to authenticate on the FTV? Will the content deal in some obscure way mean that FTV isn’t subject to the Roku treatment gets from Comcast?

    I mean, I either understand, or can make decent educated guesses, on the incentives of the various players in almost all of the teevee market. But the Time-Warner/MSO/streamer box dance around HBO Go is utterly obscure to me, and I find that weird.

  15. “Which means I could in fact drop HBO for a while and just get by watching The Pacific or whatever for a bit.”

    But then you wouldn’t be able to watch Silicon Valley for 3 years.

    De gustibus non est disputandum, and all that, but I think HBO is the best bargain in the teevee business by a pretty wide margin. (Especially with HBO Go for the full back catalog.) It’s a cornucopia of the absolute best content around. (And you won’t be able to watch and re-watch the amazing Mildred Pierce miniseries on Amazon.) Plus, all good citizens should support kickass content and the kickass studio and artists that make it with their dollars, IMHO. That’s why we fought WWII.

  16. “But the Time-Warner/MSO/streamer box dance around HBO Go is utterly obscure to me, and I find that weird.”

    HBO had told me multiple times that they make GO available free of charge to their cable/satellite partners and it’s up to those guys to decide if they want to offer it. Not sure if that’s still the case, but I have a feeling some earlier inflammatory cord cutting marketing angered or concerned Comcast, hence the lack of support. As to the other providers and platforms, it’s probably similar.

    Amazon is uniquely positioned as both a service and a box, like Apple, and I agree the dynamics could be different.

  17. “HBO had told me multiple times that they make GO available free of charge to their cable/satellite partners and it’s up to those guys to decide if they want to offer it.”

    Yeah. I’ve already gotten that far. It’s once we get past that that things get muddy for me.

    For example, what’s up with Time-Warner’s willingness/unwillingness to offer Go on the various streamer boxes? I’m still not convinced that the lack of interest in TiVo is completely about market share, and not about kowtowing to the MSO’s. And was there any backstory about FTV access, other than rolling out access & content in one “Boom!” announcement? And why would it take nine months (not counting the pre-announcement development period) to get a FTV Go client up and running?

    “I have a feeling some earlier inflammatory (Roku) cord cutting marketing angered or concerned Comcast, hence the lack of support.”

    That’s definitely possible.

    But then what’s up with Charter not authenticating Go on Apple TV?

    Plus, does the Comcast/Roku denial have anything to do with the Comcast/Apple vaporware?

    It’s still all a Ball of Confusion to me.

  18. Yes, and the black box will mostly remain that way. At the Cable Show last summer, the HBO spokesperson who told me of upcoming PS3 support sort of expressed surprise TiVo was still in existence and, as such, suggested they were too small to dedicate resources to. Of course, she may not have known the whole story and the dynamics could have changed since the Roamio’s launch and good publicity.

  19. “Yes, and the black box will mostly remain that way.”

    Agreed. And the reason I agree is that there are too many obscure moving parts between Time-Warner and the various MSO’s to gain any clarity.

    “At the Cable Show last summer, the HBO spokesperson who told me of upcoming PS3 support sort of expressed surprise TiVo was still in existence and, as such, suggested they were too small to dedicate resources to.”

    I know it’s only a million or so consumers, but they’re almost all cable subs, and unlike all the streamer box consumers, they’re less likely to be cable-teevee-cutters moving forward. Given the way Time-Warner’s Prime Directive is to support the cable-teevee ecosystem for their stable of channels by using HBO as leverage, TiVo would seem like it’d be right in their wheelhouse, despite the relatively low market share. Unless, of course, they think, or have been told, that supporting TiVo would piss off the MSO’s…

  20. You make a good point that most TiVo users are cable customers… But of that retail 1m you cite, only something like 2/3rd are Premiere/Roamio Sam Biller estimates. On the flip side, the RCNs and Suddenlinks increase that number.

  21. If I had to guess, I would say that the rumors of an Amazon subscription music service and the delay of Amazon mp3 on Fire TV are related. I would expect that a subscription will launch in a few weeks as the first version the Fire TV will get and the app on our phones and tablets will get an update to support subscription. Here’s hoping at least!

  22. I’m shocked and horrified that this device can’t play Amazon’s own cloud service (mp3s). That really knocks this down to a C- or D quality product. I can play my Amazon cloud product on my partners freaking iPad and iPhone…but not on Amazon’s own hardware! Pathetic. Fine, they’re working on a subscription music service (maybe) but put out the standard cloud player NOW. I have the Amazon cloud player on EVERYTHING (iPad, Galaxy S5, Samsung TV)…everything…EXCEPT Amazon’s own hardware. Inexcusable.

  23. “I’m shocked and horrified that this device can’t play Amazon’s own cloud service”

    I’m far more amused than shocked and horrified. (And I occasionally use the cloud player on my Roku.)

    It’ll obviously be rectified in short order. IMHO, seems like a pretty simple decision to release the box while doing the work to finish the player, rather than holding up the entire release for a month or so just for that one piece.

    If it makes you feel any better, one would imagine someone at Amazon lost their job over the snafu…

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