Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) introduced its new Fire TV streaming device yesterday at a media event in New York. The Fire TV is the same price as Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) market-leading Apple TV device at $99 a pop, but Amazon has perfected the technology to make streaming media to your television easier and faster than ever. Here are three reasons why Amazon's Fire TV will be a hit with consumers and how it could unseat Apple as the dominant player in the U.S. streaming-device market.
Advanced streaming and prediction controls
If you're like me and you currently own an Apple TV, then you know how frustrating it can be waiting for a TV show or movie to load. Amazon's Fire TV has a solution to this problem and it's called ASAP, or Advanced Streaming and Prediction. The ASAP feature predicts what a user is likely to watch and preloads the content so the television episode or movie begins the moment you push "play."
"The more you use Fire TV, the more accurate ASAP becomes, dynamically adapting to your viewing habits," according to Amazon. This feature should give the online retailer's gadget an edge over Apple's device, as buffering times are one of the biggest complaints about Apple TV and other streaming services. Plagued by long loading times, Apple reached out to Comcast recently in hopes of securing a deal that would "ensure users don't see hiccups in the service or buffering that can take place while streaming Web video," according to The Wall Street Journal.
No matter how you cut it, truly instant streaming with no wait time is sure to be a big selling point for Amazon's Fire TV over rival devices.
Voice-activated search features
Voice search is another standout feature from Amazon's new set-top box. With Fire TV, users can simply speak a movie title, actor, or genre into the remote's built-in microphone and the device pulls up search results within seconds. This is certainly an improvement over Apple TV, which requires users to manually click one letter at a time on its alphabet grid. It is also a feature that is exclusive to Amazon's device, as you can see from the side-by-side comparison chart below.
Nevertheless, voice control won't give Amazon an edge over competitors forever. In fact, there's a good chance Apple will include voice-activated features in its next-generation Apple TV. But for the time being, it gives consumers another reason to prefer Fire TV to rival devices.
Gaming the competition
Amazon's Fire TV also gets bonus points for its gaming prospects and diverse lineup of content from third-party providers. In addition to Amazon Instant Video, Fire TV owners can access content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTube, ESPN, and Bloomberg TV, as well as Showtime Anytime and Pandora -- two services Apple TV currently lacks.
Although, to be fair, Apple TV currently offers HBO Go, which you cannot yet get on Fire TV. Apple is also said to be in talks with media giants such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable about adding more content like on-demand cable programming to its offerings in Apple TV. But the tech giant has tried to jockey for similar deals to enter TV before, only to come up empty-handed.
On top of this, Amazon is setting its device apart from Apple by throwing gaming into the mix. With Amazon's $39.99 game controller, users can play hundreds of best-selling games on Fire TV, including exclusive titles from Amazon Game Studios. The e-commerce giant plans to add thousands more games in the quarters to come, but for now this is a big advantage over Apple TV and Google's Chromecast -- neither of which currently offer gaming functionality. These games, on average, cost $1.85 apiece, though many are free to play.
Foolish final thoughts
In time, I think these three things will help Amazon steal market share from Apple in the streaming-device space. At the end of the day, this is a broader strategy by Amazon to get people to consume more of the company's content and media. Amazon Kindle owners already spend hundreds of dollars more than non-Kindle owners do. The same should hold true for Fire TV owners because the device makes it easier than ever for consumers to access and purchase content.