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posted: 4/5/2014 8:12 AM

Amazon debuts FireTV device to challenge Apple

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  • Amazon's Peter Larsen introduces Amazon Fire TV during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. At $99, Amazon Fire TV is the easiest way to watch Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, and more on your big-screen TV.

      Amazon's Peter Larsen introduces Amazon Fire TV during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. At $99, Amazon Fire TV is the easiest way to watch Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, and more on your big-screen TV.
    Amazon

  • An Amazon Fire TV sits on display after a news conference in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

      An Amazon Fire TV sits on display after a news conference in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 2, 2014.
    Bloomberg News

 
Bloomberg News

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up the technology industry's push to reach customers in their living rooms.

In an event in New York, the world's largest Internet retailer unveiled FireTV, a television-viewing device for streaming movies, television shows and other video from the Web.

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The small black box, which comes with a remote control and connects to Wi-Fi, puts Amazon in closer competition with Apple Inc. and Google Inc., which offer their own Internet-connected gadgets for streaming video to a TV. The move also escalates a rivalry with Netflix Inc. in video-streaming services. All of the companies are striving to reach into consumers' homes and to tie customers to a particular ecosystem of services.

Amazon has been using free video-streaming to lure more people to its two-day shipping subscription, called Prime. Prime members are typically among the company's most active online shoppers, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles.

"This is about selling Prime," said Pachter, who has the equivalent of a hold rating on the stock. "It really does open up their ability to deliver a lot of stuff."

With its own box, Amazon can feature its library of video instead of depending on other TV manufacturers. Like Netflix, which produces shows such as "House of Cards," Amazon has been developing programming to attract customers with exclusive content.

"Nobody else has a critical mass of content outside of Netflix," said Pachter.

More Devices

Bezos is pushing Amazon further into the manufacturing of hardware, including tablet computers, e-readers and package- delivering drones. A TV device provides a new platform for software developers to build games and other applications for the various digital devices.

The television products from Amazon and others have largely served as a supplement to cable-television services instead of replacing them. The services don't offer much live programming such as sports and are mainly an entry point for accessing catalogs of movies and TV shows for viewing on demand.

Apple's TV product costs $99. While it provides access to videos from iTunes, Hulu LLC, YouTube and others, Amazon video isn't available. Google's TV product, called Chromecast, was introduced last year and costs $35. Others competing in the market include Microsoft Corp., with its Xbox game system, and Roku Inc.

Amazon's FireTV includes access to Netflix and YouTube.

"This is their attack on Roku and Apple TV," said Brian Blair, an analyst at Wedge Partners.

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