Live blog: Amazon’s video event in New York

Photo by Laura Owen/Gigaom

After months of rumors, Amazon is holding a video event in New York City Wednesday where it is expected to unveil its TV streaming box. I’ll be live blogging from the event. In the meantime, Janko Roettgers shared some thoughts on what we’re likely to see.

Just announced:

  • The Amazon Fire TV. It’s a small set-top box that the company claims is three times as powerful as an Apple TV or Roku.
Laura Hazard Owen 8:53:15 am

Thanks for reading along today. We’ll have more coverage later today, including a post from Janko on how this changes the streaming TV landscape.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:52:56 am

The event is over and I’m heading out to get a look at one of these.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:52:47 am

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That’s the same as Apple TV. It ships today. 

Laura Hazard Owen 8:51:02 am

Yep. It is $99.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:50:06 am

I’m guessing $99

Laura Hazard Owen 8:50:00 am

Bezos has done this before with Kindle Fire tablets — running through all the things the product offers before stating price.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:49:38 am

Here comes price. Larsen is setting us up for the price to be low.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:49:23 am

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t seem as if you can read Kindle ebooks on Kindle Fire TV — not that people would necessarily want to (though it might work with kids’ books)

Laura Hazard Owen 8:48:46 am

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I love imagining the kinds of NDAs that these people had to sign.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:48:20 am

Larsen is showing customer demos now. One person says, “This is going to blow away Apple TV.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:46:35 am

So yeah. Amazon hasn’t announced the Fire TV’s price yet. But this video game demo is really, really loud and everyone in the room is using it to catch up on other stuff.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:45:29 am

Frazzini is now talking about Amazon Game Studios, the gaming studio where Amazon is creating original games.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:45:01 am

One of the reason these demos are so impressive is because of the surround sound in this room, which *may* not be the case for you at home.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:43:55 am

Of course, some games are more than that. But Frazzini’s point is that a lot of people are just going to play games a little bit and they don’t need a separate gaming console for them.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:42:40 am

OK, price: Average price of a paid game is $1.85.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:42:29 am

“Just remember, this is all being played on this tiny little box.” But because of the quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM, Frazzini says, it works.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:41:44 am

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People on your Wi-Fi network can play the game on their phones and tablets while you play on Fire TV.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:40:28 am

Just to be clear, the games on Fire TV are not free, though Frazzini hasn’t said how much they are going to cost. Right now he’s previewing a version of Minecraft for Fire TV.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:40:02 am

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It is $39.99 and comes with 1,000 Amazon coins.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:38:55 am

But some customers will want a game controller and here it is.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:38:43 am

You can use the Fire TV remote to play games. “We’ve also created an app that allows you to use the phones and tablets taht you already own to play games.” This is available next month.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:38:21 am

“We’ve worked with some of the biggest game developers” like Disney and EA to bring their games to Fire TV. “By next month we’ll have thousands of games available for customers to play.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:37:39 am

He’s calling up Mike Frazzini from Amazon Game Studios.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:36:41 am

Game consoles are just too expensive for a lot of people to buy, Larsen says, so people play on their tablet or smartphone instead “but in fact they would love to play their games on TV.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:36:17 am

Next up is gaming. “Millions…don’t have game consoles.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:35:13 am

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Parents can set time limits.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:34:13 am

Kids can search by topic rather than title. They can search “dinosaurs” for instance.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:33:55 am

Once you turn on FreeTime for your kid they can’t get out of it and start watching other stuff without a password. Parents can also “whitelist” content from the larger library that they think is appropriate for their kid, and that will show up in the kid’s FreeTime account.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:33:08 am

Larsen’s now talking about FreeTime for kids.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:32:25 am

OK this is kinda cool– X-Ray for Music will play the lyrics of a song (about 10,000 songs are supported) over the song on your TV.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:31:52 am

Pandora, I Heart Radio, and “all the music you bought up on” will appear in a music library on the Kindle Fire TV.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:31:34 am

Music is coming “next month.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:30:42 am

Now Larsen is talking about some tech that Amazon already has on the Kindle Fire, “X-ray for movies and TV.” If you care — and I’ve never found it that intriguing — here’s more:

Laura Hazard Owen 8:29:32 am

You can set an album of photos as your screensaver.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:28:55 am

If you have the Cloud Drive app, it automatically backs up your photos to the cloud and then they’ll appear in your Kindle Fire TV.

Janko Roettgers 8:28:38 am

That search is very popular in my household. Amazon seems to target 6 year-olds here…

Laura Hazard Owen 8:28:24 am

Now Larsen is talking about “extras.” Getting photos from your phoen to your TV. He pulls out an iPhone 5s.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:27:59 am

Janko Roettgers 8:27:10 am

My guess is that they’re also going to use that Mic for Mayday on your TV.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:25:47 am

“This thing is easy to use and it’s fast.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:25:27 am

“This is voice search that actually works.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:25:20 am

“There’s an enormous technology infrastructure that lies behind voice search.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:25:01 am

You don’t have to know how to spell anything.

Janko Roettgers 8:24:38 am

Also, I don’t see any music subscription services on that list. Maybe because Amazon wants to launch its own service first?

Laura Hazard Owen 8:24:33 am

The remote control has a microphone “deeply integrated.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:24:15 am

Whoa, it’s voice command. You speak into the remote control.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:24:02 am

Now we’re going to talk about discovery: How do you find the content on the platform? Probably no typing and pecking

Laura Hazard Owen 8:23:46 am

“You can watch Alpha House and you can watch House of Cards. This isn’t a closed ecosystem.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:23:29 am

“Over 200,000 titles to buy and to rent from Amaozn Instant Video. Prime Instant Video, with thousands of exclusives.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:23:11 am

More descriptions of Amazon Studios exclusive content, like Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s novels. “This has an IMDB score of 8.4.” Remember Amazon owns IMDB.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:22:26 am

“Alpha House very quickly became the most-watched show on Amazon after its release.” (He doesn’t note how long it was the most-watched show for.)

Janko Roettgers 8:22:22 am

Worth noting: It looks like there is no YouTube app on that screen…

Laura Hazard Owen 8:21:22 am

Now we’re getting a long promo for Amazon Studios original content.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:21:09 am

Here’s a photo (blurry, sorry) of initial apps on the platform.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:20:51 am

That’s pretty interesting. So if you have an account with another provider, you can watch its content free through Kindle Fire TV’s interface.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:19:33 am

“We’ll be rolling more partners into this program over time.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:19:24 am

When you search for a show, it will come up as being free if you’re a Hulu Plus subscriber.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:18:39 am

“The easiest place to watch Netflix.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:17:53 am

ASAP “learns over time and gets better at predicting what you’re going to watch.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:17:12 am

A feature called “ASAP” predicts what movies and TV shows you’re going to watcha nd queues them up so they start instantly.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:15:58 am

You can shop new release movies from the device. Scrolling looks to be a lot faster than it is on Netflix apps.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:15:28 am

Home screen shows Hulu and Netflix support.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:15:09 am

The remote control is thin but a bit larger than an Apple TV remote.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:14:45 am

It comes with a Bluetooth remote control.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:14:21 am

OK, wait, Larsen said it’s thinner than a dime. But I’m pretty sure it’s thicker than that.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:13:58 am

Says it has 3 times the power of Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast

Laura Hazard Owen 8:13:47 am

I can’t tell if it can connect to Ethernet.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:13:35 am

“So that videos start streaming immediately” (if you have a fast WiFi connection, that is.)

Laura Hazard Owen 8:13:22 am

Dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi with Mimo

Laura Hazard Owen 8:13:11 am

“This is really important because applications…and video start more quickly and the user interface is smooth and easy to navigate.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:12:54 am

It has 2 GB of RAM.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:12:48 am

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Quad-core processor and dedicated GPU.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:12:06 am

Every reporter here today is getting one. We’ll have Janko review it and then we’ll send it on back…

Laura Hazard Owen 8:11:35 am

It’s about the size of a CD case and about an inch thick.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:11:10 am

Amazon Fire TV

Laura Hazard Owen 8:10:54 am

Here comes the product

Laura Hazard Owen 8:10:14 am

And he touts Mayday, the on-demand video customer support on Kindle Fires, which promises a 15-second response time (and surpassed that goal this holiday season)

Laura Hazard Owen 8:09:47 am

Now Peter Larsen is talking about how annoying it is when you’re forced to turn off your devices on airplanes. “We worked relentlessly for 4 years and we led the committee that changed this policy.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:09:20 am

Amazon’s devices are a closed ecosystem — it’s not like you can read Kindle ebooks on other e-readers — but they strive to make Kindle books available through apps on any device.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:07:59 am

Are they announcing something with Apple? That seems…unlikely

Laura Hazard Owen 8:07:41 am

No. 3 is “closed ecosystem…it drives me bananas that I can’t watch my Prime Instant Video on an Apple TV”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:07:27 am

Laura Hazard Owen 8:06:49 am

3 has to be bad content, right?

Laura Hazard Owen 8:06:36 am

2.) Performance. Slow. “The dreaded spinner.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:06:11 am

Citing lots of Apple TV reviews where people criticize search.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:05:18 am

He demos a search on Roku– you have to “hunt and peck your way through an alphabet grid. It takes perseverance.”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:04:54 am

1) Search is too hard.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:04:49 am

Larsen is going to walk thru areas of frustration re: media devices.

Laura Hazard Owen 8:04:36 am

Hulu gets a shoutout too — “it’s clear customers love this content….They’re watching this content on streaming media devices. We’re selling millions…of them on”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:04:12 am

350% growth, he says. Cites Netflix’s 44 million subscribers. Will Amazon announce subscriber numbers?

Laura Hazard Owen 8:03:50 am

Peter Larsen’s on stage showing how digital video customers have increased thanks to investing “hundreds of millions of dollars”

Laura Hazard Owen 8:03:06 am

“Thousands of hours of exclusive programming.” Grimm, Hannibal, Downton Abbey. They listed a bunch of these in an announcement yesterday about nabbing the 24 exclusive 

Laura Hazard Owen 8:02:04 am

The promo is reeling through Prime Instant Video’s exclusives, like Downton Abbey and Workaholics

Laura Hazard Owen 8:01:44 am

Lights down, music off — and going into a Prime Instant Video promo

Laura Hazard Owen 8:01:06 am

Janko wondered if Amazon’s going to invite any content partners onstage. I said there’s only one stool. Then he made me LOL

Laura Hazard Owen 7:59:58 am

The song playing super loudly is Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” and I just caught a dude nodding his head to it

Laura Hazard Owen 7:55:09 am

Most of the movies that we’re watching previews for are not movies that are available free through Amazon Prime Instant Video, FWIW.

Laura Hazard Owen 7:50:07 am

But maybe Jeff Bezos will come casually perch on that empty stool at the front? Actually, probably not — the invite promised Kindle VP Peter Larsen. 

Laura Hazard Owen 7:47:12 am

I’m not close enough to the artfully arranged bookshelves at the front of the room to see if all those books are published by Amazon.

Laura Hazard Owen 7:45:06 am

I’m not sure if it was an ad or a preview of a function that the video box (well, anyway, we’re all expecting it’s a video box) is going to have.

Laura Hazard Owen 7:43:46 am

Now one of the screens is showing teenagers video-chatting.

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Laura Hazard Owen 7:37:44 am

I’m here at Milk Studios in Chelsea waiting for the event to begin. The room is decorated like a lounge, with couches, movies playing on big screens, bowls of candy and a popcorn machine in the back.


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