Monthly Archives: januari 2018

Amazon Echo devices an Music Unlimited service are coming to Australia and New Zealand in February

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Amazon has announced that select Amazon Echo devices, as well as their Music Unlimited streaming service, will be headed to Australia and New Zealand next month. Customers can place a pre-order for the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus starting today. The Amazon Echo is $119 AUD (~$95 USD), the Echo Dot is $49 AUD (~$39 USD), and the Echo Plus is $199 AUD (~$159 USD). All three will be released on February 1st.

Also arriving on the same day is Amazon’s Music Unlimited streaming service. Like in other countries, it will be available in three plan options. $4.99 AUD per month grants streaming access to over 45 million songs on a single Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Plus. The Individual Plan for multiple devices and mobile streaming is $11.99 AUD per month, while the Family Plan, which will be available later, will be $17.99 AUD per month for up to six members of a household to share. New subscribers will get a 90-day free trial.

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App Deal: R-Type I and II games down from $1.99 to $0.99

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The games R-TYPE and R-TYPE II are back on sale for $0.99 each. These prices match the lowest these games have ever been. These are classic side-scrolling space shooter games from the 80s that have been brought to the Fire TV. The games are compatible with all Fire TV models except the 1st generation Fire TV Stick. R-TYPE can be played with a remote control, but the sequel requires a game controller.

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Amazon cancels original shows ‘Jean-Claude Van Johnson’, ‘One Mississippi’, and ‘I Love Dick’

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Amazon has decided not to renew their original shows Jean-Claude Van Johnson, One Mississippi, and I Love Dick, according to Deadline. The cancellation of Jean-Claude Van Johnson comes just one month after the show’s first season debuted. I Love Dick was the second project from Transparent creator Jill Soloway, but it hasn’t had the same success as the Golden Globe-winning comedy. One Mississippi is arguably the most successful of the three shows being canceled, having released two seasons with an overall 94% rating with critics on Rotten Tomato. These cancellations are said to be further examples of Amazon’s decision to focus on big shows with a wider audience appeal, like the upcoming Lord of the Rings series.

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Prediction: Amazon will release a networked OTA TV Tuner with built-in DVR for Fire TV in 2018

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Frankly, it seems almost certain to me that Amazon will release new hardware this year that allows Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners to watch over-the-air broadcast television using an HD antenna. I believe such a device will not connect directly to a Fire TV, but rather, it will connect to your home network over Ethernet or WiFi so that all of your Fire TV devices can access the available channels through its built-in TV tuners. I also think it will have a hard drive built in so that it can act as a DVR to record and time-shift programming, in addition to several other possible capabilities.

Ever since Amazon first began offering a Fire TV bundle that included an OTA HD antenna in 2015, it seemed likely that there would one day be a way to use the antenna directly with the Fire TV, instead of just with the tuner built into your TV as it’s currently intended to be used. Amazon has kept that hope alive by continuing to offer an HD antenna bundle with their latest Fire TV hardware.

While discussing time-shifting and whole-home streaming from a single antenna during an interview last week at CES with Jared Newman from TechHive, Amazon’s head of Fire TV Marc Whitten said, “We’ve been very impressed with how popular [the antenna bundle] is, and I think it’s a good tell that there’s more innovation that could be done… with how you mix over-the-air and over-the-top content into a really elegant experience.”

There have been past indications that Amazon has at least considered adding TV tuner support to the Fire TV, but recently it seems more likely than ever that it’s actually going to happen.

Amazon announced yesterday that a Channel Guide for live streaming content is coming to all Fire TV devices. While the focus right now is on integrating more Amazon Channels that offer live streaming content into the guide, I can’t think of any better way to use the new feature than to also list OTA broadcast channels from a TV tuner in with the streaming channels.

Minus the DVR capabilities, Amazon already has the software component of such a system, thanks to their Fire TV Edition televisions. Those TVs running Fire OS can already tune to channels, display program guides, and even pause live OTA television. With a stand-alone TV tuner, Amazon can fairly effortlessly enable all of those features on all existing Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks.

It has been reported that Amazon has canceled their plans to release a cable TV service and will be focusing on expanding their Amazon Channel lineup. While they have been able to get CBS on board for select markets, it’s unlikely the other major broadcast networks will follow suit anytime soon. This makes OTA television through an HD antenna a critical component to make Amazon Channels a complete option for cord cutters.

Similar to a Tablo or HDHomeRun, I envision an Amazon-branded box that can be placed anywhere in your home where it receives the best HD Antenna signal, as long as it can also be connected to your home network. It would likely have 2 or 4 TV tuners built in so that multiple household members can watch and/or record OTA content simultaneously. By not being connected directly to a Fire TV, it would be accessible over the network through all Fire TV devices in the home and possibly through mobile devices via the Amazon Video app.

I believe it’s crucial that the device also has a large hard drive, that is at least 500 GB, which would be used primarily for recording OTA content and for pausing live television. Having a large local hard drive linked to your Amazon account could also augment many other Amazon devices and services, such as providing offline pre-downloaded “On Deck” video storage for Fire TV devices, like is available through Fire tablets.

Amazon recently removed the ability to upload your own MP3 music library to their cloud. A local Amazon-linked hard drive could restore some of that functionality by streaming your local personal music library to connected devices, such as the Amazon Echo. Additionally, the hard drive could be used to augment Amazon Drive functionality, such as being a place to locally store recordings from Amazon’s Cloud Cam security camera, instead of relying solely on expensive cloud storage, as the camera does now.

A local large-capacity hard drive linked to an Amazon account could be used in numerous ways with existing and future Amazon devices and services. Packaging one with TV tuners built in seems like the perfect way to introduce such a device in a manner that makes sense to customers.

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Amazon’s original series ‘The Tick’ renewed for a second season

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Amazon has announced that they’ve greenlit a second season fo their original series The Tick. The new season, consisting of 10 episodes, will begin production this year and will premiere in 2019 on Prime Video. The first half of the first season is available to stream now and the second half will become available on February 23rd.

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Amazon adds Channel Guide to Fire TV devices for live content from Amazon Channels

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Amazon has brought several UI elements found previously only on Fire TV Edition televisions to all Fire TV devices. These new interfaces include an On Now row on the home screen and a new Channel Guide. While they’re used for over-the-air channels on televisions running Fire OS, they’re being made available on Fire TV devices to make it easier to see what is currently streaming live and what will be streaming live through select Amazon Channels.

The On Now row on the Fire TV home screen shows a horizontally scrolling list of what is currently available to stream live from select Amazon Channels. A red bar at the bottom of the content thumbnail indicates how far along the live stream is for each show.

While watching a live stream, a row similar to the On Now row can be brought up to view what else is currently airing on other Amazon Channels that can be viewed live.

Highlighting any content in the On Now row on the home screen, or in the Up Next row while watching a live stream, and pressing the menu button will bring up the option to view a newly added Channel Guide. The guide lists what is currently streaming live as well as what will be streaming live in the future. In the bottom right will be a picture-in-picture live view of the channel you were just watching live.

Currently, only HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and Cinemax are available in the On Now row and the Channel Guide but Amazon says they hope to add more services. You’ll need to be subscribed through Amazon Channels for live programming to be available in this manner. Being subscribed to a service directly, such as through HBO Now, will not cause the new interface to appear.

Lastly, the compatible Amazon Channels will now also work with the recently added Alexa commands for pulling up specific stations. You can say “Alexa, tune to HBO Family” or “Alexa, watch STARZ” to jump directly to the live stream of each channel. You can also say “Alexa, go to the Channel Guide” to go directly to the channel guide.

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Amazon Echo Spot is now available in the UK and Germany

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Amazon has announced that the Echo Spot is now available in the UK and Germany. In the UK, it is priced at £119.99 and in Germany, you’ll pay €129.99. Both the white and black versions of the Echo Spot are available to preorder today in both countries and will be released on January 24th. The Echo Spot is Amazon’s second Echo with a screen, after the Echo Show. It features all of the same features of the larger Echo Show, but in a more compact form factor.

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Logitech Harmony Smart Remote w/ Hub on sale for $58 — Lowest Price Ever

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The Logitech Harmony Remote w/ Smart Hub is on sale for $58. This is the same price that it was available for during Black Friday and is the lowest price that it has ever been. Harmony remotes are among the few universal remotes that can control the Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire TV Edition televisions. The included hub connects to the Fire TV via Bluetooth, which lets it seamlessly relay commands from the remote, mobile app, and Harmony’s Harmony’s Alexa skill.

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Fire TV Edition televisions are all back in stock after selling out over the holidays

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Amazon had several sales on the Fire TV Edition televisions during the holidays. Those sales resulted in the 43-inch, 50-inch, and 55-inch TV sizes, which were the most heavily reduced, to sell out. When they remained out of stock through the end of the year, some, including myself, wondered if they’d never return and be replaced by new models. That’s apparently not the case just yet because all sizes have just come back in stock this morning.

In an interview with Jared Newman of TechHive, Marc Whitten, Amazon’s vice president of Fire TV, said “We’re very invested in the Fire TV Edition. We have a big team working on it, we’re very excited, and this is not the last moment that I’m going to make announcements.”

It seems safe to assume that new TVs running Amazon’s Fire OS will be announced later this year, but the return on Amazon of the current models by Element is probably a good indicator that it won’t happen soon.

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Alexa will someday have an opinion on Movies, TV shows, and more

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If you ask Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant what the best movie is, it currently checks IMDB ratings and gives you an answer. While that can be useful information, it’s not necessarily going to help you pick something to watch. If you ask for song recommendations, Alexa will use your past listening habits to find similar music you may like. That’s better than simply playing the top Billboard song, but not as good as asking a friend what they’ve been listening to lately to discover new music. Amazon is working on making Alexa more interesting to talk to, and in turn more useful, by giving it its own opinion on things that is not purely based on general popularity or your own habits.

If you ask Alexa what its favorite beer is, it currently responds with “definitely Budweiser.” According to Amazon Fire TV VP Marc Whitten, who spoke with TechCrunch, that response is an example of Alexa having its own opinion, meaning the response was not curated by humans. With Alexa continuing to expand into more countries, Whitten says “you can’t editorialize opinion on everything. That doesn’t work. The ambitious goal is that you don’t have to do [human curation].”

A far too familiar livingroom scenario for many of us is spending more time looking for something to watch than actually watching content. Having an opinionated voice assistant to query in home entertainment scenarios would be far more useful than one that simply dictates what’s popular.

With Amazon expected to release a new Fire TV later this year that has a built-in speaker and microphones for Alexa, it’s easy to see the scenario that Amazon is working towards. Instead of picking up the remote and endlessly browsing lists to find something to watch, you’d just ask Alexa to pick. Mixing in genuine opinion, even if it’s generated through machine learning and deep learning networks, should give Alexa more interesting choices.

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