Will Amazon’s Fire TV Edition Do What Apple Could Not?

3 minute read
| Analysis

The news is all over the place today. In partnership with Insignia and Toshiba, Amazon has developed a smart TV called the Fire TV Edition. It includes the Fire TV system. This 4K/UHD TV will be sold by Amazon online, but also exclusively at Best Buy, notably including the Best Buy brick-and-mortar stores.

You have to give Amazon credit for being spunky.

Amazon Fire TV Edition.

Amazon Fire TV Edition. Image credit: Amazon.

The LCD/LED backlit TV itself comes in four sizes (43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inches) and is fairly unexceptional. Here are the specs.

  • Fire TV Edition is a smart TV experience that seamlessly integrates your favorite streaming and live over-the-air content on a unified home screen (HD antenna required).
  • Experience true-to-life 4K UHD picture quality with over 8 million pixels for stunning clarity, deep contrast, and brilliant colors on a direct-lit LED screen with minimal motion blur. Refresh Rate: 60 Hz (Native), 120 Hz (Effective).
  • The Fire TV experience is built in so you can enjoy tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills. Get universal search results across over 190 channels and apps including Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and Prime Video.
  • The included Voice Remote with Alexa allows you to control live TV playback, launch apps, search for TV shows, play music, switch inputs, control smart home devices, and much more.
  • Prime members get unlimited access to Prime Video including Thursday Night Football, thousands of movies, and TV episodes at no additional cost.
  • Multiple device input/output options: 4 HDMI 2.0 including 1 with ARC, 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card, Ethernet, composite/component, headphone, optical audio out.

No mention is made of HDR capability, and the vanilla “HDMI 2.0” input spec seems to confirm that. But we’ll have to wait for official reviews when it ships this summer.

What’s Notable About Fire TV Edition

This announcement is notable for several reasons. First of all, Amazon is a company that’s supremely talented at selling goods, whether it’s laundry detergent or 4K/UHD TVs. So when a business opportunity opens up, like the 4K/UHD TV revolution, Amazon prepares properly to jump all over it.

Secondly, 4K/UHD TV systems are complicated to set up properly and fully exploit. The market is always hungry for simple, elegant, cost-effective solutions.

[My Crazy Apple TV 4K & Dolby Vision Adventure ]

Just as Amazon recognized the need for a simple, inexpensive voice-activated home speaker system, Amazon has tried to solve the 4K/UHD TV complexity issue with a 4K/UHD TV with Alexa and the Fire TV built in. This not only eliminates cables and envelopes the customer into the Fire TV ecosystem, but serves as an integrated platform for Amazon’s future efforts in product sales, home automation and entertainment (Amazon Prime).

Amazon's vision of control.

Ecosystem integration & control solving customer problems. Image credit: Amazon.

Solving an annoying customer problem and seducing the customer into an integrated ecosystem is something we customarily associate with Apple.

That’s why, years ago, Gene Munster formerly with Piper Jaffray, now at LoupVentures.com, suggested Apple integrate the Apple TV and the TV experience with its own branded set. Those who thought that was a bad idea were probably right in that there’s nothing to be gained for Apple to design and ship premium TVs in a cut-throat TV market. Apple doesn’t approach the market that way,. But Amazon can.

Finally, Amazon is smartly leveraging from the brick-and-mortar aspects of TV buying. Customers still like to visit a Best Buy and look at prospective, exciting new TVs. Apple has always understood that shopping experience when it comes to its own retail stores, and Amazon isn’t shy about exploiting that customer psychology as well.

One has to give Amazon credit for being courageous. It’s the company’s frame of mind. However, in the end, the Fire TV Edition could well fail like the Fire Phone did.

[Amazon Hangs Up on Fire Phone ]

If it does fail, it wouldn’t be a crisis as it would be with Apple, and that affords Amazon some liberties.

Business Model Differentiation

The point is, Amazon is a different kind of company and has a different business model than Apple. Apple builds only the best of anything it choses to pursue, and that locks the company out of grand entrepreneurial experiments that could well fail, but might pay off handsomely in the long run.

That’s why Amazon is probably working, right now, on Alexa-powered family service robot companions that will cater to customer needs. Will Amazon catch Apple flat-footed?

[Amazon’s Vesta Project Means it’s Time For Apple to Step Up its Robot Game]

In this day and age, Amazon’s kind of spunk is intriguing to watch.

2 Comments Add a comment

  1. robertgp421

    TCL’s Roku TV is very nice. If Amazon and BestBuy create a TV with similar functionality and decent specs, I think it may work out well. The think I like about the Roku TV is that all of the inputs are the first 4-5 buttons available. When we flip the tv on, we choose the input and go from there. Roku’s apps are available but not front and center. My concern with Amazon is that Amazon’s shows, etc. have always been front and center. It may not be as functional.

  2. Ned

    Remembering all the comments in the Macverse about how Apple shouldn’t get in to selling TVs, there’s no profit, a low margin business. The company sold monitors for years – did they make the screens? Did they turn to LG for the last of the monitors? What’s the scuttlebutt on the new, promised Apple displays? Is Apple going to create these on its own?

    Tim, hand this off to Jony. A television made by select manufacturers (the ones that make your new monitors) that has an enclosure for a card with a proprietary connection – an Apple TV. After a period of time the card can be replaced, by Apple – planned obsolesence, the full nine yards. Carry a 65″ TV to the Apple store? No, send a member of the Genius Bar to the customer’s home, ala Geek Squad, to replace the card and, oh, while they’re at it, make suggestions about how Apple could help them with their Smart Home setup. On second thought, maybe you should start out with an AR version of this so you don’t have to employ more people and customers could get a sense of how that would all work before you beta test it……….

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