September 10, 2021
Amazon plans to roll out a line of Fire TV sets that will feature its Alexa voice assistant—an expansion that also showcases a growing ambition to place itself at the center of customer living rooms, reports The Wall Street Journal.
On September 9, the tech giant announced two lineups of Amazon-branded TVs—one named Amazon Fire TV Omni Series, starting at $409.99, and the other Amazon Fire TV 4-Series, which will start at $369.99. The TVs will be available on Amazon’s website and at Best Buy. locations in October.
TV brands including Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia have for years sold televisions powered by Amazon Fire TV’s operating system after Amazon and Best Buy joined forces in 2018.
What’s more, the Journal notes, Amazon has become dominant in streaming, with its Fire TV devices regularly ranking among top sellers. Its entertainment services include the Prime Video streaming platform, Fire TV operating system, and an assortment of streaming devices.
In recent years, Amazon has expanded its own-brand business in several arenas, including apparel, groceries and even items such as batteries. The company has opened branded grocery shops and plans to operate several department stores that will feature its private-label brands, the Journal reported last month.
Through its branded TVs, the online retailer is taking on a segment of electronics known for low margins that have dissuaded some competitors. Apple spent years studying the potential for an Apple TV, but has so far only developed a streaming device and the video service Apple TV+. The iPhone maker has long targeted opportunities to integrate hardware and software to make products where it can command hefty premiums and profit margins.
Amazon, meanwhile, historically has sought market share over profit and to appeal to customers with lower prices. The company in recent years has released an array of Alexa-enabled products, including ear buds and glasses.
An Amazon TV “speaks to Amazon’s product road map—anything customers spend time on, they want to take a shot at,” said Loup Ventures tech analyst Gene Munster. “There will be a market for cheap, good tech.”
The streaming industry is crowded with competitors. Amazon has faced steep competition from Roku while being challenged by broadband giants such as Comcast, which has worked with Walmart and Chinese manufacturer Hisense to develop smart TVs.
Amazon said its Omni Series TVs will be equipped with the company’s Alexa assistant, which will feature “far-field voice controls” that enable customers to ask Alexa questions without a remote, much like the company’s Echo smart speakers.
The TVs will be available in sizes ranging from 43 inches to 75 inches diagonally and will have 4K resolution. Amazon said its Fire TV 4-Series will support Alexa capabilities available through its Alexa Voice Remote. The more affordable 4-Series TVs will be available in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models.
Daniel Rausch, vice president of Amazon Entertainment Devices and Services, said the television lineup will build on the company’s effort to bring ambient computing to people’s homes. He likened their capabilities to its smart speakers, with the Omni Series models responding and turning on to a wake word—often programmed as “Alexa”—even when they are turned off.
Finally despite launching competing TV products, Amazon said its partnerships with Toshiba and others aren’t changing. The company Thursday also announced new Fire TV-powered televisions by Toshiba and Pioneer. Amazon has clashed with partners and potential partners over how it has launched products that compete with them. The company has said it doesn’t use confidential information that other firms share with it to build competing products.
Aside from its branded TVs, Amazon on Thursday also revealed the latest iteration of its Fire TV Stick 4K product. The new Stick 4K “Max” (priced at $54.99) will include Alexa features and have power and networking upgrades.
Research contact: @WSJ