Citing a “350 percent” growth in its video streaming service, Amazon unveiled its own streaming media device on Wednesday: Amazon Fire TV. The small set-top box will let Amazon compete with Apple TV, Roku, and ChromeCast in the hardware battle over TV streaming services. The fireTV will include a voice-activated search and (as anticipated by many), can double as a gaming console. The Fire TV will cost $99, or the same as Apple TV. It’s available to ship today.

“We’re selling millions of streaming media devices on … we hear what’s working, we hear what’s not working,” Amazon’s Vice President in charge of Kindle Peter Larsen told a room full of reporters during the announcement. The three things Amazon thinks are weak on other streaming devices? Search, slow performance, and a closed ecosystem of available streaming services on the device. “It drives me bananas that I can’t watch my Prime Instant Video on my Apple TV,” Larsen added.

Presumably, Amazon sees Fire TV as a solution to those problems with other devices. As of now, the apps on Fire TV  include Netlifx, Hulu, WatchESPN, MLB, Crackle, MLB, Vimeo, NBA, and YouTube, according to the Verge. And, Larsen claimed in his presentation that the device is three times as fast as its competitors. The interface, demoed by Larsen, is pretty simple but peppered with things like “ASAP,” which seems to be a feature that predicts what you might want to watch next. Fire TV’s voice activated search will use the small remote that comes with the box. Amazon is touting it as a solution to the clunky search capabilities of competing streaming devices.

As for gaming, Fire TV customers will be able to play on the small remote, on a tablet, or with a $39.99 controller called the Fire game controller. Games will cost about $1.85 on average, according to Amazon. The library includes games from Amazon’s own Game Studios.

Other features include more integration with “X-ray,” which allows you to access information on what you’re watching on a Fire HDX tablet; a kid-friendly version of the interface called FreeTime; and a photo interface. Music is coming to the Fire TV next month, Larsen added.

Source: The Wire