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Amazon Fire TV Adds Value With New Features

Steve Anderson

When it comes to the hardware for streaming video, viewers have no shortage of options. Between dedicated platforms like the Roku box, nearly every television, Blu-ray / 4K / DVD player, and most major gaming consoles, you can stream from just about anything. So deciding just what to do your streaming from is its own, novel issue. Those looking for the best value in their streaming platform may want to consider the Amazon Fire TV system, as it’s slated to get a whole new bundle of features in the near future.

The new Fire TV update includes a new Smart Home Dashboard which gives easy on/off switch for your connected devices like smart lights and plugs. It mirrors what is available on Fire Tablets and Echo Show devices.

Also good for streaming buffs—particularly those who buy their video through Amazon—is the Alexa Shortcut Panel. A one-button press on the remote will open up a shortcut panel that allows easy access to “smart home controls, weather, news, and your video library.”

From the panel, you can watch what you like, that you’ve already bought. Users will also be able to get access to news and weather as well as any smart home devices already connected in the house.

They’ve also improve Alexa Home Theater system will make it easier to connect wireless speakers. As anyone who’s ever tried to wire up speakers to a receiver to a projector or television knows, wireless speakers are a whole lot more convenient.

Users of the Fire TV Omni Series and 4-Series televisions will be able to get audio output not only for Fire TV streaming, but also for any connected device. That includes antennas and cable boxes, and gaming consoles as well. A home theater and a gaming console may not sound all that important, but for anyone who’s tried it, it can make quite a difference.

Further, for anyone who keeps their media on a separate device, the new Fire TV Omni and 4-Series televisions will also boast Airplay 2 and HomeKit systems. Airplay 2 will allow content kept on an iPhone, an iPad or a Mac to stream directly to a Fire TV system. HomeKit, meanwhile, will give users control over the devices involved, allowing for volume changes or turning power on and off.

Essentially, Amazon is taking the battle for the living room—which was formerly about as far as streaming systems would consider—and trying to turn it into a battle for the whole house. Whether or not that’s a sound plan remains to be seen. After all, there will likely be plenty of home theater buffs interested in running a full smart home. And there will likely be plenty of home theater buffs planning to do just the opposite, having absolutely no interest in a home where drapes can be opened and closed by voice command.

It’s a decent strategy; even assuming that just 10 percent of home theater buffs want smart homes. Amazon can seize that entire market segment and then try to appeal to the rest which it can comfortably do on the strength of its home theater applications alone.

It’s especially noteworthy that Amazon—who already has a pretty solid lock on content provision between Amazon Prime Video and the various sales from the main site—is trying to push hard on hardware as well. For some firms, it would have been enough to have a presence and sell content as well. Amazon is eager to make its hardware particularly compelling. While it may have overshot that mark with a good-sized portion of the home theater market, it’s likely landed some customers for life.

Only time will tell how it all works out, but Amazon has a deeply compelling package here, especially for those interested in automating their homes.

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