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Once again, Amazon takes aim at Apple TV

September 17, 2015

Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV StickAmazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV StickCourtesy: Amazon

Following Apple’s recent upgrade to Apple TV, Amazon is sprucing up its rival video streaming devices, Fire TV and the Fire Stick.

The new devices, introduced Thursday, let users stream TV shows, movies, and music to their televisions. Amazon, Apple, and Google are all competing for the market, which is seen as a potentially important business that will give them control of a key source of household entertainment and data about viewing habits.

The new version of Amazon Fire Stick, a small device that resembles a USB memory stick, will come with a voice enabled remote control. Viewers can call up TV shows and films they want to watch by saying their title. They can also use the remote to ask Alexa, Amazon’s personal digital assistant, questions related to the weather, sports scores, and traffic.

The upgrade puts Amazon’s remote on par with Apple’s, which was introduced last week and works in tandem with Apple’s set-top box, Apple TV. Apple’s relies on Siri, its personal digital assistant, to answer questions.

The Fire Stick itself costs $40 while the remote control and the Fire Stick together cost $50.

Additionally, Amazon has introduced its latest version of Fire TV box that includes support for 4K ultra HD televisions, which have a higher resolution that the average HD TVs. The latest version is also faster at rendering video with 75% more processing power than its predecessor.

 

Fire TV will have 8 GBs of on-device storage for movies, TVs and games. It also includes a SD card slot so that users can store additional content.

Amazon (AMZN) is also upgrading voice controls for Fire TV. Previously, it was only available for finding television shows. But now, Amazon has added Alexa so that viewers can ask other kinds of queries, such as the weather or sports scores.

As with its new tablets, Amazon is betting that a lower cost alternative in media streaming will attract customers. Amazon’s Fire TV box costs $100, compared to Apple TV, which costs $148.

Lastly, Amazon is focusing on gaming as growing area for its Fire TV users with the introduction of a new gaming controller. The controller includes voice search as well as an audio jack for listening to games with headphones.

All three new devices will be available for pre-order on Thursday and will ship to customers in October.

As the holiday shopping season nears, it will be interesting to see how Apple (AAPL) and Amazon’s media streaming devices do. Apple TV recently slipped from third to fourth place in the rankings of the most popular streaming media devices because of the growth of Amazon’s streaming devices, according to Parks Associates, whose data is based on last year’s U.S. sales. Google (GOOG) also offers its own version of Amazon’s Fire TV stick, Chromecast.

For more on Amazon’s media ambitions, watch this video: