Amazon Announces Fire TV

AlNipper49

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http://gizmodo.com/amazons-fire-tv-everything-you-need-to-know-1556889628
 

Amazon has kicked off its arrival to the streaming party with the announcement of new $100 device called FireTV to satisfy all your TV watching needs today in a popcorn-scented New York event. Here's everything you need to know about it:
Amazon used three pillars of what competitor devices like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast do wrong—search, performance/slow apps, and a closed ecosystem—to illustrate what FireTV does right. Amazon's device is a box you plug into your TV that runs on an open Android ecosystem and comes with plenty of apps including Netflix, Pandora, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and more. Unfortunately, it lacks HBO Go and Vudu, which is a damn shame. Regardless, you can either buy or rent shows right on the menu. Everything about Fire TV seems to place emphasis on the word easy—easy to use, easy to find stuff to watch, and so on.
 

MakMan44

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Didn't Roku just release a HDMI stick that costs half of this and serves basically the same function (minus the games)? Doesn't seem like this is destined to do well but I could be wrong. 
 

jayhoz

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So it's essentially games and voice search (Amazon) v. HBO GO (Roku).  
 
 

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It's basically an XBox 360 without HBO Go. 
 
Between these kinds of devices, computers, and the PS4 - Microsoft looks to be the big loser.
 

SumnerH

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jayhoz said:
So it's essentially games and voice search (Amazon) v. HBO GO (Roku).  
 
 
 
Also optical audio out, which Roku lacks.
 
I'll still take the WD TV Live SMP over all of the above (lacks HBO GO, but supports tons of video codecs which is among the most important features to me and one that these tables always seem to miss).
 

jayhoz

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SumnerH said:
 
Also optical audio out, which Roku lacks.
 
I'll still take the WD TV Live SMP over all of the above (lacks HBO GO, but supports tons of video codecs which is among the most important features to me and one that these tables always seem to miss).
Does anyone care though?  HDMI suits 95% of people's needs.
 

jercra

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Quad core and 2GB of Ram should make it very a very smooth interface. It doesn't seem like a big deal but Apple sure made a lot of lonely promoting a smooth interface.
 

zenter

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graffam198 said:
No reason on Nips post to quote...But for MLB.TV, I have to imagine there is an Android App for that. 
 
Amazon's FireOS is built on top of Android, but is closed-ish and has its own app environment. And my understanding is that Fire TV apps are a subset thereof. Looking at the Fire TV apps on Amazon's site, there's no MLB.TV. To add, they wouldn't showcase NBA Gametime and Red Bull TV without showcasing MLB.TV if they had it.
 

NortheasternPJ

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The games piece is interesting and MIMO will definitely have some benefits.
 
As to a smooth interface, you need a quad-core processor and 2gb of ram to have a smooth interface? That's awful.
 

uncannymanny

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graffam198 said:
No reason on Nips post to quote...But for MLB.TV, I have to imagine there is an Android App for that. 
FireTV apps are Android apps in much the same way that AppleTV apps are iOS apps. It's not plug and play for companies to being these apps in, but I would be extremely surprised if MLB.TV was not available by the end of the month.
 

MakMan44

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zenter said:
 
Amazon's FireOS is built on top of Android, but is closed-ish and has its own app environment. And my understanding is that Fire TV apps are a subset thereof. Looking at the Fire TV apps on Amazon's site, there's no MLB.TV. To add, they wouldn't showcase NBA Gametime and Red Bull TV without showcasing MLB.TV if they had it.
I know the Kindle has an app so I don't know why it's not on this too.
 

jayhoz

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MakMan44 said:
I know the Kindle has an app so I don't know why it's not on this too.
 
I'm sure the licensing agreement is very different between a mobile device App and something that gets shown on a TV.
 

mt8thsw9th

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Plus, why would someone want to read a book on their TV? I'm sure that was a very early cut when they were building this product. I don't see a single upside to including it.
 

zenter

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NortheasternPJ said:
The games piece is interesting and MIMO will definitely have some benefits.
 
As to a smooth interface, you need a quad-core processor and 2gb of ram to have a smooth interface? That's awful.
 
Nah. The quad core is just good for managing multiple things at once. And that with the 2GB of RAM are so it's future-proofed, knowing that this is essentially a Galaxy S3 sitting under your TV for 3+ years, and that you want it to work well enough for apps that don't exist yet. Have you seen an original Roku? It's slow. This is a little extra upfront cost for future loyal customers (and purchasers of apps).
 
MakMan44 said:
I know the Kindle has an app so I don't know why it's not on this too.
 
jayhoz said:
I'm sure the licensing agreement is very different between a mobile device App and something that gets shown on a TV.
 
Bingo. That said (and giving me hope), MLBAM is the most flexible and least arcane about platform these days - you have a device with a screen, it can probably get MLB.TV. NBA is way more restrictive and confusing in most respects, including this - tablet = ok, phone = not okay, phablet = ??. I'm certain that licensing is not the biggest concern for MLB, though it is a consideration.
 
There's also interface considerations. Ideally, an app would feel native to the platform, which would require some custom development. Amazon would then need to approve (not sure what that takes). I don't think the MLB.TV apps for handheld devices would translate smoothly to a TV, but I may be wrong.
 

SumnerH

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jayhoz said:
I'm sure the licensing agreement is very different between a mobile device App and something that gets shown on a TV.
Those aren't disjoint sets, many mobile devices have HDMI out or are otherwise devices that can show stuff on a TV. This isn't directed at you since you're basically right, it's just weird in this day and age that companies put so much stock in distinctions that often don't exist in the real world.
 

jayhoz

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SumnerH said:
Those aren't disjoint sets, many mobile devices have HDMI out or are otherwise devices that can show stuff on a TV. This isn't directed at you since you're basically right, it's just weird in this day and age that companies put so much stock in distinctions that often don't exist in the real world.
I agree that given the technical capabilities of these devices the distinctions are a bit silly. That being said I bet the percent of consumers who could correctly identify what a MHL adapter, a miracast or a chrome cast device or a micro HDMI cable does is quite low. There exists a real barrier to getting content from a mobile device to an HD TV due to low consumer awareness. I don't know if that is what is driving licensing differences, but it is real none the less.
 

jayhoz

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The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa said:
How likely is it that someone can root this thing to add MLB.tv, HBO GO, etc. (and/or XBMC like on the Apple TV 2)?
quite.
 

uncannymanny

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The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa said:
How likely is it that someone can root this thing to add MLB.tv, HBO GO, etc. (and/or XBMC like on the Apple TV 2)?
None. This person would need access to uncompiled source code for those apps and know enough about how the FireTV apps are built to port it. The latter is doable, the former is pretty impossible.
 

SumnerH

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uncannymanny said:
None. This person would need access to uncompiled source code for those apps and know enough about how the FireTV apps are built to port it. The latter is doable, the former is pretty impossible.
For XBMC it's trivial: http://mirrors.xbmc.org/releases/source/xbmc-12.3.tar.gz

It might not be necessary for the others, if there's either a) a way to open up the underlying Android OS enough that the Android versions of those apps will run; or b) a port of a clean Android OS (or a straight Linux port or something that supports those services).
 

uncannymanny

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SumnerH said:
For XBMC it's trivial: http://mirrors.xbmc.org/releases/source/xbmc-12.3.tar.gz

It might not be necessary for the others, if there's either a) a way to open up the underlying Android OS enough that the Android versions of those apps will run; or b) a port of a clean Android OS (or a straight Linux port or something that supports those services).
Yeah I almost went back and edited to mention I was not referring to XBMC-type apps. The phone/tablet versions of these apps need to be remade to work on FTV. The version of Android and the hardware are completely dissimilar to phones and tablets; the current versions made for those devices will not run on this platform.
 

crow216

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I'm waiting for the device that allows me to search at my homescreen for a movie or tv show and then just shows me which app has that available to me. I'm tired of checking netflix, then prime, then hbo, then showtime, and then eventually torrenting.  
 

uncannymanny

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crow216 said:
I'm waiting for the device that allows me to search at my homescreen for a movie or tv show and then just shows me which app has that available to me. I'm tired of checking netflix, then prime, then hbo, then showtime, and then eventually torrenting.  
I believe that's what FTV does.
 

SumnerH

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uncannymanny said:
Yeah I almost went back and edited to mention I was not referring to XBMC-type apps. The phone/tablet versions of these apps need to be remade to work on FTV. The version of Android and the hardware are completely dissimilar to phones and tablets; the current versions made for those devices will not run on this platform.
That's true of a lot of embedded devices that are hacked to run existing software, though, and it's what I meant by the second half of my post: It'd be completely unsurprising if the hardware was figured out to the point where it could run a desktop Linux distro (including the desktop MLB.tv or whatever), or Mac OS X, or something.  The Apple TV mk 2 wasn't originally something you'd think could run XBMC.  Nor the original Xbox, for that matter, where XBMC originated.  There've been tons of devices that run hobbled cut-down OSes that have been hacked enough to run alternate OSes and all the goodies that come with them.
 
Not only is "impossible" pessimistic, but I'd say it's more likely than not that at some point this hardware will run another OS that supports Chrome running MLB.tv or something similar.
 

uncannymanny

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Well that is an entirely different (and significantly more complex) thing than hacking the box to run the current Android apps. Luckily these heavy-hitters won't be off the platform for long (I'd make a $50 JF bet that MLB and HBO hit before the end of April).
 
However, your points are true and it will be interesting to see what the tinkerers end up doing with this device and the onboard power and low, low price point makes those things pretty tantalizing I'd think.
 

Blacken

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uncannymanny said:
None. This person would need access to uncompiled source code for those apps and know enough about how the FireTV apps are built to port it. The latter is doable, the former is pretty impossible.
Very impossible, for sure. APKs are not chock-full of dex code that can be read by anybody who's spent a little time writing Android and certainly can't be recompiled once you disable code signing, which by the way is not part of Android core and left untouched by Amazon.

Instead they're filled with magic.
 

Blacken

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But seriously this will be cracked two weeks after it comes out and running xlarge applications maybe a week after that, I don't know what you're talking about.
 

j44thor

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How did Amazon make the colossal fucking mistake of not making the game controller rechargeable?  I was thinking the games add on would be something the wife might allow on the main TV since I'm sure a lot of the games are designed for the casual crowd.  But seriously a bluetooth controller that only runs on AA batteries? Is this 1999?
 

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Blacken said:
But seriously this will be cracked two weeks after it comes out and running xlarge applications maybe a week after that, I don't know what you're talking about.
As soon as I saw the hardware specs and that it was running Android the proverbial "Bingo!" went off. Granted I'm now running and am happy with Plex, where the bulk of the heavy lifting occurs on my Plex server
 

uncannymanny

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Blacken said:
Very impossible, for sure. APKs are not chock-full of dex code that can be read by anybody who's spent a little time writing Android and certainly can't be recompiled once you disable code signing, which by the way is not part of Android core and left untouched by Amazon.

Instead they're filled with magic.
 
I dug around and see that reverse engineering an apk is much easier than an ipa (I've never done any Android dev), but I think you're wildly overstating the ability to rebuild some of the more complex media apps on the market, not to mention accessing their data streams from unauthorized devices. I still don't think it is possible to any realistic extent, but would love to hear more if I'm mistaken.
 

AlNipper49

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uncannymanny said:
 
I dug around and see that reverse engineering an apk is much easier than an ipa (I've never done any Android dev), but I think you're wildly overstating the ability to rebuild some of the more complex media apps on the market, not to mention accessing their data streams from unauthorized devices. I still don't think it is possible to any realistic extent, but would love to hear more if I'm mistaken.
 
What's more likely is that someone builds an abstraction layer, which theoretically would be more simpler given the underlying similarities between the two systems.  
 
Or the easy answer, someone figures out how to plop XBMC on top of it.
 

Blacken

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uncannymanny said:
I dug around and see that reverse engineering an apk is much easier than an ipa (I've never done any Android dev), but I think you're wildly overstating the ability to rebuild some of the more complex media apps on the market, not to mention accessing their data streams from unauthorized devices. I still don't think it is possible to any realistic extent, but would love to hear more if I'm mistaken.
You don't know enough to know what is wildly overstating. These applications are simple. There is no Magic Sauce to a video stream. Everyone uses one of maybe three formats and the decryption key has to be on the device or it doesn't work. Unless they do half the application in C just to obfuscate (and they don't because that would be stupid) and it's not a compatible chip ABI (which it will be because Amazon isn't going to rewrite their Fire changes for MIPS or whatever) it's not a difficult process.

 
AlNipper49 said:
What's more likely is that someone builds an abstraction layer, which theoretically would be more simpler given the underlying similarities between the two systems.  
 
Or the easy answer, someone figures out how to plop XBMC on top of it.
Not even that. This thing is running Android. Android already has a spec for running applications on different geometries (this is why the Nexus 10 sucks, everything is designed for smaller). Dalvik code is trivially modifiable once you turn off code signing, which the OS hackers will figure out in the first week, and then you just stub out the legal-copy stuff (most people use Play Services, that's part of why it's always running on your machine).

These applications rely on the kernel being intact and the application being honest and can't verify either. They're just not difficult to subvert.
 

zenter

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Blacken said:
But seriously this will be cracked two weeks after it comes out and running xlarge applications maybe a week after that, I don't know what you're talking about.
 
Yeah. Anyone who's spent any time rooting Android devices knows that "if" is not the question. It's "when". I don't have any FireOS devices, but a quick glance at XDA tells me its rather trivial, and I assume that Prime Video apps still work.
 
I haven't checked recently, but I know getting Prime Video to work on non-FireOS devices was hitting brick walls. If they get around that, then actually the Fire TV might be (technically) superfluous - you can use an old smartphone to do a lot of this stuff, though it would probably look a bit worse on the screen
 

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uncannymanny said:
Were these apps ported to Google TV?
 
The popular ones were all hacked, but the hardware's different so you can't say for sure that "Google TV" in general was.
 
As one example, the Sony Google TV has been rooted and people have installed Flash on it and gotten Hulu and MLB.tv and the like working, installed XBMC, etc.
 
http://gtvhacker.com/ has some links.
 

Blacken

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zenter said:
Yeah. Anyone who's spent any time rooting Android devices knows that "if" is not the question. It's "when". I don't have any FireOS devices, but a quick glance at XDA tells me its rather trivial, and I assume that Prime Video apps still work.
 
I haven't checked recently, but I know getting Prime Video to work on non-FireOS devices was hitting brick walls. If they get around that, then actually the Fire TV might be (technically) superfluous - you can use an old smartphone to do a lot of this stuff, though it would probably look a bit worse on the screen
Yup. Prime Video, AFAIK, actually uses custom hooks in the OS build - the app itself doesn't actually contain the code needed to do a lot of the video negotiation. Netflix, HBO Go, etc. actually want to be used on multiple devices, which precludes that sort of thing.
 

jayhoz

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User reviews on this are pretty horrific.
 
No HBO GO
No Vudu
No MLBTV
No DNLA Support
Voice search only returns Amazon results (no Netflix, no local files, etc.)
Spotty results with PLEX
Weak Wifi connection
Local MKV files only work if transcoded via PLEX
Universal remotes like the Logitech Harmony do not work
 

B H Kim

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I bought one and have used it a little, but I'm probably going to return it.  Other than the game capability (which means little to me), it doesn't do anything I can't already do with my Roku, TiVo and Apple TV (and Chromecast, which I also have hooked up, but never use).  I really don't need a fifth streaming device hooked up to one television. If you're looking for a single streaming device capable of accessing Amazon content, buy a Roku instead.