Amazon’s disingenuous plan to remove Fire TV’s competition grows

Earlier this month, reports indicated that Amazon planned to stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast products through its online marketplace. While the devices are still available right now, they’re scheduled to be pulled at some point today, according to Bloomberg’s initial report on Amazon’s plans.
So why is Amazon doing this? Well, the company would have you believe that it’s trying to prevent consumer confusion, because neither of those competitive devices support its Prime Video service as well as its own Fire TV set-top boxes. But several reports published over the last few days offer an alternative theory.
First came a GeekWire report about Amazon’s apparent plans to introduce a QVC-like channel to the Fire TV. This shopping network would complement a new feature the company is reportedly testing with a small number of users: The ability to purchase items shown on-screen directly via the Fire TV remote.
The report says that Amazon wants to sell items via banner ads shown on the main Fire TV interface, and through the X-Ray feature, which uses Amazon’s IMDb service to share information about whatever a person is watching. (It can identify actors, for example, or share background info about a scene.)
These shopping features wouldn’t be as easy to implement on competitive products. Nor would Amazon make as much money from them — Apple takes a 30 percent cut from all transactions made through its platforms, which is why Kindle users can’t purchase new books via the company’s iOS applications.
That’s a compelling enough reason not to believe Amazon’s claim on its own. Saying it was trying to help its Prime customers was likely disingenuous; it seems more like Amazon is trying to do its best to promote a potential revenue scheme than like it was trying to make sure its most loyal customers are happy.
Then came the revelation, courtesy of BuzzFeed’s review of the new Apple TV, that Amazon could very well introduce its Prime Video service to the platform. Here’s what the review said, captured in a handy-dandy little “screenshort”:


I’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on this claim. Right now it seems damning. If the company can introduce Prime Video to the Apple TV, wouldn’t the customers it’s trying to save from befuddlement be better served if it did that, instead of pulling from its website a device they might want to purchase?
None of this will really stop people from buying a new Apple TV. Like I wrote when Amazon’s plan was revealed: The company isn’t hurting anyone but itself, given the ease with which someone can point their Web browser to Apple’s website instead of refusing to buy something not on Amazon’s market. It’s very possible that Amazon is trying (likely in vain) to retain some of the market share for streaming boxes it swallowed up due to years of Apple neglecting to update the Apple TV.
I’ll update this post if Amazon responds to my request for comment. Not that I’m holding my breath — when the company isn’t sending me press releases about new products or making sure I see Medium posts, it’s fairly tight lipped. Given the apparent duplicity at work here, I don’t expect any comment from it.

Why this Apple TV fan has come to prefer Amazon’s Fire TV

While many anxiously await Apple’s new groundbreaking iWatch, Amazon’s Fire TV sets its sights on replacing Apple’s hobby device. Even for the most devout Apple addicts that cant live without their Apple TVs will find the Fire TV to be a worthwhile replacement.

Tablo is building a beautiful Roku app for its cord-cutting DVR

Thought all Roku apps look the same? Think again: Tablo is getting ready to launch a beautiful new Roku app for its DVR for cord cutters that doesn’t look like any of the old-school Roku apps you still see a lot on that platform. Tablo previewed the new app at the Pepcom Digital Experience event at CES in Las Vegas on Monday night, and Grant Hall, CEO of Tablo maker Nuvyyo, told me that he hopes to have the app ready before the end of this quarter.

Tablo's new Roku app.

Tablo’s new Roku app

A detail that developers will appreciate: Tablo is building this new app with Brightscript, Roku’s own scripting language. Roku has only allowed a small number of hand-selected partners to use HTML5 for their apps, and making visually stunning apps has proven to be a bit harder with Brightscript than it would be with HTML5.

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Tablo also showed off a great-looking new app for Android TV and Fire TV at CES. Hall said that app will be available even before the Roku app.

Tablo's new app for Android TV and Fire TV.

Tablo’s new app for Android TV and Fire TV

Finally, the company showed its new Tablo Metro DVR, which comes with tiny built-in antennas that are able to pick up HD TV broadcast signals in metropolitan areas where a big external antenna isn’t necessary. It’s a little bit like Aereo’s dime-sized antennas, albeit with a slightly different technology, and for the DVR in your home.

Those star-shaped patterns are tiny TV antennas.

Those star-shaped patterns are tiny TV antennas.

Tablo is currently only selling its DVRs online, but Hall said the company may start selling them in retail stores later this year.

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5 tips and tricks to get the most out of your new Amazon Fire TV

So you got your hands on a new Amazon Fire TV or a Fire TV stick this holiday season. You’ve spent the last few days watching Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant, and now you’re wondering: What else can I do with this?

I’m glad you asked. Here are five tips worth trying if you want to get the most out of your Fire TV:

1. Install apps directly from Amazon’s website

One of the more frustrating things about the Fire TV is the integrated app store: Amazon chose to highlight some apps through lists and recommendations, but it’s impossible to find others. Luckily, there is another way: You can always just go to Amazon’s website and either browse all Fire TV apps, or search for what you are looking for, and then remotely install the app directly onto your Fire TV or Fire TV stick.

2. Play personal media

Amazon’s Fire TV allows you to display any photos or home movies you have uploaded to Amazon’s Cloud Drive. But what if you just want to look at photos on your phone or maybe play a longer movie saved on your computer’s hard drive? That’s where local media sharing apps come in.

There are just a handful of those apps available for Fire TV, but these two should help you with most of your needs: Allcast offers an easy way to beam photos, videos and even music from your phone or from sources like Google Drive to your Fire TV. You can download the Allcast app for your Android phone on Google Play, but you’ll also need the free Allcast receiver app for your Fire TV, which can be remotely installed on the device from Amazon’s website. Once that is done, Allcast will automatically launch the receiver app whenever you want to start sending media, meaning that you won’t have to bust out your Fire TV remote control to get things going.

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Allcast is a good way to quickly beam personal media to a Fire TV.

For a more powerful solution, you should check out Plex. It’s a media center app that catalogs your media and presents it on your Fire TV, complete with a nice user interface with cover art and more. Plex relies on a server application that you’ll have to install on your computer, but it’s definitely the way to go if you have a large personal media collection. Plex apps are available for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire, and the Fire TV app for Plex can be installed directly on the device or through the Amazon app store.

3. Mirror your Kindle Fire, Fire phone or Android mobile device

Another way to quickly get content on the Fire TV is to mirror your screen. Fire TV supports Miracast mirroring, which is also supported by Android devices as well as select Windows PCs and Amazon’s own Fire TV tablets and Fire phones. To make it work, you’ll first need to go to Settings – Display & Sounds and then select “Enable Wireless Mirroring,” and then start mirroring on your Android device (instructions here) or Kindle Fire (instructions here).

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To mirror your phone or tablet, you’ll need to first enable screen mirroring.

4. Use Airplay with your Fire TV

Owners of iOS devices or Mac OS X computers don’t have to feel left out when it comes to mirroring: The AirPlay & DLNA receiver Pro app, which is available on the Amazon app store for $4.99, turns any Fire TV into an Apple TV-like AirPlay renderer. This means that you can mirror your Mac’s desktop or your iPad’s or iPhone’s screen on your Fire TV.

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Guess what: Your Fire TV can also receive AirPlay streams.

You can also use AirPlay directly from some iOS apps, but your mileage may vary: Sending audio to your Fire TV should work fine, but you should expect some difficulties sending video from apps. Also, performance of AirPlay mirroring may vary based on your Wi-Fi network and other circumstances, so this may not be the best solution if you want to stream videos from other websites, but it’s still a great way to quickly beam a presentation, or maybe some photos, to the TV screen.

5. Install third-party apps

Amazon now offers a bunch of apps for the Fire TV, but technically, the device would be available to do even more: Fire TV is based on Android, and thus able to play almost any Android app, provided that it doesn’t need touch input and that it can be used with a TV remote control. Loading apps from third-party sources, which is also known as sideloading, is a little more complicated that on some other devices, but still feasible for more adventurous users. Sideloadfiretv.com has some good instructions on how to do it.

However, there are a few things to consider when going down this route: First, you’ll want to make sure to only get Android apps from reputable sources, and be aware of legal grey areas. Google Play doesn’t offer users a way to download apps to their PCs or Macs, which is why many who are interested in sideloading rely on apps hosted on other sites instead. You may violate copyright laws by downloading apps that are republished without the consent of the original developer, and apps downloaded from unknown sources could potentially also include malware code. However, some developers have decided to make their apps directly available from their websites. This includes Kodi, a media center app popular with users looking to customize their Fire TV experience, which can be legally downloaded from the Kodi website.

If you sideloaded a lot of apps to your Fire TV, you may want to consider an alternative home screen like FiredTV.

If you sideloaded a lot of apps to your Fire TV, you may want to consider an alternative home screen like FiredTV.

Also, sideloaded apps don’t show up on the Fire TV home screen. Instead, you’ll be able to launch them by going to Settings — Applications. Or you could instead install a custom home screen replacement like the FiredTVLauncher that lists anything you are installing from other sources. And no worries, you can always go back to the Fire TV home screen in order to browse Amazon’s movies and TV shows.

Amazon is adding HBO Go to its Fire TV

HBO is a go for owners of Amazon’s Fire TV: Amazon has added a HBO Go app to its Fire TV set-top box, and promises to bring the same app to the Fire TV Stick this coming spring. Consumers do need to have HBO as part of their TV subscription bundle in order to access HBO GO, and Comcast don’t even have to try, as the company has been blocking HBO Go on most set-top boxes. Here’s how Amazon’s Fire TV Stick compares to Roku’s Streaming Stick and Google’s Chromecast.

Amazon’s Fire TV connects with Spotify

Spotify is coming to Amazon’s Fire TV, with a twist: instead of launching a regular app on the device, Spotify just made the Fire TV a Spotify Connect-capable device (hat tip to Engadget). Like with a number of connected speakers, users can now beam songs from their Spotify app to the Fire TV. It’s all part of Spotify’s efforts to be part of the upcoming connected audio watershed, and for Fire TV owners, it’s one more way to access full albums on the device, with Amazon’s own music app still mysteriously missing in action.