Amazon has announced a $99 streaming player.
Fire TV is Amzon's answer for folks who don't already have access to Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus and other internet-streamed content via a Roku, app, built into their TV or Blu-ray player or any number of other methods for accessing these services.
The specs—quad core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and dedicated GPU—are designed to impress. But all most people will want to know is whether Fire TV will be any better at avoiding the problems that plague Netflix and other services on other platforms. It probably won't, since the problems are usually caused more by choked-off service provider bandwidth.
But the extra horsepower will come in handy for supporting the selection of Android games, including Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead and more. Make sure you order the optional $40 Amazon Fire Game controller (or two) if you want to play games, because the bundled Bluetooth-based remote isn't the best way to go for gaming.
Amazon Fire TV
The unique features that might move people to buy Fire TV are its voice search and ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction). If it works well, voice search could eliminate the frustrating scroll-and-peck searching that is common on other platforms without QWERTY remotes. ASAP is a pre-cache mechanism that preloads content it thinks you will want to watch, based on your Watchlist, recommendations and viewing habits.
There is plenty more, including parental controls, X-Ray for movies and TV shows and Miracast screen-casting. But it's easier just to find out for yourself if Fire TV is for you, since you can order it right now for $99 and have it tomorrow. Or you could read the press release if you need more convincing.