Amazon's main mission in developing its Fire TV was flawless performance, Vice President of Kindle Peter Larsen said Wednesday, since best-in-class specs mean that everything else fades to the background except what you want to watch.
Other boxes are "self-important" for assuming customers will settle for anything less, Larsen told CNET on the sidelines of his presentation of the $99 Fire TV and $39.99 Fire Game Controller.
Amazon's new streaming box enters a market already occupied by popular devices like Apple TV and Roku, as well as game consoles like Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's Playstation that also stream video. The $99 price tag on Fire TV is well below that of the high-powered consoles designed for intense gameplay, but it matches the high-end model of Apple TV and Roku -- and comes in way above the $35 cost of Google's popular streaming stick, Chromecast.
Though Amazon's status as the Internet's biggest retailer offers the chance to link e-commerce to its new box, the opportunity at launch is limited to selling movies, TV and games through its Amazon Instant Video and Amazon -- and Larsen suggested that wasn't going to be changing soon.
The box's X-Ray feature -- which populates your Kindle with information from the Internet Movie Database in synch with what you're watching, or shows off lyrics that match the song you're listening to -- seems primed to have a transactional element. For example, do you like those shoes you see your favorite star wearing in the movie? Here's the Amazon page where you can buy them, right on your Kindle as you're watching, with one-click purchasing at the ready.
Larsen said that's a great idea, but isn't something the company can do today. He also said that at launch Fire TV's search feature won't be able to filter out free content from content you need to pay to watch.
But in typical Amazon fashion, he said customer reviews would be the barometer of Fire TV's success or failure. "We look at those unbelievably carefully."