Amazon's Ecosystem Could Give Its Android Console Advantage

Rumors surrounding Amazon's set-top box are back, and this time with sources reporting that the device may cost under $300 to undercut Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

Rumors of an Amazon set-top box first surfaced back in April 2013. Sources said that Amazon's device would compete directly with similar products like Apple TV, the Boxee Cloud DVR, the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and others. Sources also said that Amazon was developing the box at its Cupertino-based Lab 126, with the project headed by Cisco's former vice president of emerging video products, Malachy Moynihan.

News of the set-top box emerged again in September, with sources stating that Amazon was approaching game developers mainly here in the United States with just a handful abroad. The company is said to be looking to create a highly-rich gaming ecosystem that will run on high-end hardware. Amazon is even providing game developers with an SDK, although the company isn't specifically mentioning a dedicated box.

Amazon was expected to reveal the set-top-box by November in time for the holidays, but that never happened. Instead, additional rumors pointed to Amazon courting developers for original content, which may have forced Amazon to delay the unit. Sources also finally revealed a name: Firetube, keeping in line with its other "Fire" devices.

Sources are now reporting what we've already come to expect; Amazon customers will be able to stream or download music, movies, TV shows and games to the device. However, the pre-production model that's making the rounds with senior publishing sources claims it resembles the redesigned PSOne console, and is gray in color. Previously, we heard it resembles a Roku device.

Given that the set-top-box will be Android based at its core, it's unlikely the device will pose any threat to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The biggest competitors will be the Android-based Mad Catz M.O.J.O. and Nvidia's Shield, as they have direct access to Google Play. The OUYA and GameStick, which do not have access to Google Play, shouldn't be much of a threat.

Read more: OUYA vs. GameStick: Android Game Consoles Compared

That said, Amazon will be competing directly with Google even though the search engine giant has yet to produce a box of its own. Amazon's product will not only bring its Android library of apps into the living room, but provide customers an easy, native way to access movies, TV shows and music offered through Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon MP3. Amazon's tablets could even serve as remote controls.

As for the actual hardware, sources have claimed that the device will feature its own controller and may use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip designed specifically for Smart TVs and set-top devices. The device will obviously provide storage for users to download content and Amazon Appstore games. The box may also rely on Fire OS 3.0 "Mojito" for better connectivity between the box and Amazon's latest tablets.

So when will this device go retail? With the company still shopping a pre-production unit around to publishers, the launch may not be anytime soon. Sources have said that the device was slated to arrive in time for the 2013 holidays, but the launch window was pushed back at the last minute. For now it seems that 2014 is the only launch window we have to go by.

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  • Christopher Shaffer
    I've had firetube before. But usually only after eating some spicy Indian food.

    I'm curious what their "original" content will be for an Android-based system and if the system will also take the angle that the Kindle Fire has; the obnoxious "serve you constantly with ads" and "we gear our entire operating system to be a giant e-commerce platform" has been the primary unattractive quality to me.

    Anyone who says this is just another Android tablet or in any way equivalent to the UI/UX of a Nexus or iPad is on crack. I'd be very curious to see if this really is a console or just another means to advertise Amazon products to you.

    *EDIT* - PS there is something seriously wrong with Tom's commenting system since your recent changes: 1) Tapping (on an iPhone) on "Display Comments" only some times works. 2) View thread in forum does NOT work from a phone 3) Text formatting and sentence spacing is completely lost when posting in Chrome or on a phone.

    I actually had to view this in the forum (via Chrome) and edit spacing here.
  • Mike Friesen
    "under $300"It better be. Even with 3 gb of ram and a snapdragon 805, or tegra k1 (we can hope, although doubtful), it shouldn't run more than $150 - Look at the $200 tegra note, which has a screen and gyro, battery, etc!
  • ubercake
    Firetube sounds like a condition one might remedy with penicillin?Seriously though, all names aside, I'd like to see Amazon enter the game/entertainment console market. This company offers some of the best customer service on the planet. If they come up with something solid, I'd definitely try it out.