Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazon's new Fire TV Stick - Like Chromecast? This is even better. $19 for the next 2 days only for new (free trials do count) and existing Prime members - Intro promo. Update2 for remote control + setup info. New limit: 1 per customer.

Amazon's new Fire TV Stick, a challenge to Chromecast

After Amazon's success with Fire TV (which really is beautiful, fast and smooth,  with a burst of new apps recently -- over 600 now), Amazon has added the FIRE  TV STICK" - a portable unit that attaches to any HDMI port of an HDTV.

And to bring it to our attention in a big way, this $39 item will be $19 for the next two days only (US only, currently), for new and existing Prime members.

Amazon adds that "Eligible customers get a free 30-day trial of Netflix and Amazon Prime when they purchase Fire TV Stick."

  In addition, per Amazon's Press Release, Amazon states: Customers who are new to Prime can sign up for a free trial and also receive this special price.  That statement is not seen on the product page but is an important point.

  As of late Monday night, Amazon changed its initial "two per customer" to "one per customer."  I've had a lot of inquiries about the stick, so that doesn't surprise me.

Here's a quick look at Amazon's comparison chart for the FireTVStick.  (See the  larger comparison chart in the Amazon product page's popup.)
As you can see, the Amazon stick and the Roku both include dedicated remotes. (The Voice remote -- an upgrade from the one included in the TVStick box -- is separate upgrade option at $30).  Google's Chromecast doesn't offer a dedicated remote.

  There will be a free Remote App for Fire and Android (and arriving later, for iOS), which will make Voice Searches possible without the optional Voice remote.
  TIP: If you do order the optional Voice Remote, some report that their dogs are attacted to it, so keep them higher, out of reach of pets.

  Here's info on how the unit is set up and ways to control it with mobile devices if you don't get the Voice remote control

Some runaway capabilities of the FireTVStick:
1.  It has a dual-core processor over the others' single-core processor so will be noticeably faster.
2.  It has twice the memory of the other two and will be smoother during processing of streams.
3.  The storage is 8 GB versus the 2 GB of the Chromecast and the 256K of the Roku sticks.
4.  Those with the FireTV will know how easy the VOICE Search is vs typing in alpha letters.
5.  FireTVStick has Dolby Digital Plus certified surround sound feature.
6.  It has an optional game controller (sold separately then) and has over 200 games to less than 30 for the Chromecast and less than 100 for the  Roku stick.

The Chromecast is at a disadvantage to the other two, even further, as it
1. doesn't have the Dual-band/Dual Antenna WiFi capability
2. doesn't have Amazon Instant Prime.

However, Amazon doesn't yet have HBOGo, though it was mentioned as coming, some time ago.  Until that happens, those having Fire tablets can Mirror to the FireTVStick for the HDTV what is on them (HBOGo is an official app for these).  But then this can be done with the FireTVStick with other tablets and phones.  Amazon's product page emphasizes:
' Use your iOS or Android device to fling music and movies to your HDTV—and control playback—from apps like YouTube and Spotify. Or, share movies, TV shows, music, and photos from your compatible tablet or phone with everyone in your living room using display mirroring. What you see on your Fire OS or Android device is exactly what you’ll see on your big screen. '
Another important feature is Amazon's ASAP for instant streaming. "No more waiting for your movies and shows to buffer—ASAP learns what movies and shows you like so they start instantly."

Amazon emphasizes its ecosystem, which has "over 200,000 TV episodes and movies, millions of songs, and hundreds of games.  Amazon's press release highlighted the following:
' ... Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu, WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, and more for instant access to shows like Transparent, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, and The Wire—plus the largest selection of movies and TV episodes to rent or buy from Amazon Instant Video. '

I already have the FireTV but have wanted something for my computer room and of course a more portable version that I can take to friends' homes to easily share my own video-streaming favorites and watchlists.  While the HDMI Cable on the old Kindle Fire HD 8.9" tablet from 2012 could be used to attach to hotel TVs, Amazon has this info box:
' Coming soon -- take Fire TV Stick with you to use with HDTVs in hotels, college dorms, airports, or anywhere with captive portal Internet access that requires entering a password or a log-in. '

At any rate, I will end this here so more will know right away about Amazon's aggressive 2-day intro rate

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Amazon said to be opening a brick-and-mortar store in New York City

Just a quick note.  I saw this in the Wall Street Journal yesterday and, since some can't access it, will include some key points from the article.

"Amazon to Open First Brick-and-Mortar Site"
Written by Greg Bensinger and Keiko Morris, the WSJ reports that plans are to open an Amazon store in the middle of New York City, "according to people familiar with the plans" in time for the holiday season.
' Amazon’s space at 7 West 34th St., across from the Empire State Building in Midtown, would function as a mini warehouse, with limited inventory for same-day delivery within New York, product returns and exchanges, and pickups of online orders.  The Manhattan location is meant primarily to be a place for customers to pick up orders they’ve made online, but will also serve as a distribution center for couriers and likely one day will feature Amazon devices like Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphones and Fire TV set-top boxes, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking. '
The WSJ doesn't have details for the size, length of the lease, or inventory involved -- and plans could change, they say, as this is "an experiment."

Amazon had scouted space for a store in Seattle two years ago but decided there was not enough foot traffic.
The Empire State Building, across from the site of the planned store, drew 4.3 million visitors to its observatory last year. and Macy's, about a block away, saw 20 million annual visitors (so there should be enough foot traffic in this case!).

This particular experiment indicates that if the project is successful, we'll see Amazon stores only in the most heavily traffic'd parts of a few large urban areas, considering they didn't build one in Seattle.  But who knows?

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quick Kindle News: New Kindle Fire 8.9-inch HDX tablet will get free Washington Post articles. New OS 4 features are coming soon to LAST YEAR's Kindle Fire line. First reactions to 6" Fire HD tablet which is shipping. Kindle-First feature added in the UK. Kindle -First books (US) for October.

Free Washington Post news articles app will be pre-installed, on the new 8.9" Fire HDX tablet

BloombergBusinessWeek's Brad Stone reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, is bringing curated articles from the newspaper to the new Fire Tablet 8.9" HDX model, which will have it, free and pre-installed, upon delivery (shipping Oct. 21).

  Stone adds that "It will eventually be available for download on other Kindles as well as to owners of Apple’s (AAPL) iPad and various Android devices, and it will carry a monthly subscription fee" in those cases.  One can hope that the other Fire tablets will get favored subscription rates on this app, but there will likely be a promo when it's ready for the other devices.

The Washington Post project has been dubbed "Project Rainbow," indicating a colorful and overarching reach as a goal.

Stone notes that Bezos has brought in "100 new journalists while cutting pensions and other retirement benefits for current employees" but that "the resulting buzz has been positive, on balance" and that "David Carr, media columnist at the New York Times, just heralded a recent turnaround in quality: 'The once-embattled newspaper,' he wrote, 'is in the middle of a great run, turning out the kind of reporting that journalists—and readers—live for.'"

The Kindle Fire HD 6" arrives - customer reactions at forum
The response from users, at the forum discussions, to the $99 Fire HD 6" tablet, which was shipped Oct. 2, is very positive.
  Here's the forum discussion on these.

  A couple of early tech reviews:
. Laptop magazine review by Anna Attkisson calls it a "must-have" tablet (especially for its detailed parental controls) and reports: "All around, the tablet feels sturdy and less likely to fall apart than its cheap competitors.  That's unsurprising, since the company told me it splashes the device with freshwater and saltwater, slathers it in sunscreen and drops it from a meter (about 3 feet) high."
  The inexpensive smaller Fire HD 6" and 7" tablets do not have good cameras, however, at that price.
  The 6" HD is lighter and fits in one hand, but the 7" HD has stereo speakers.

. MobileTechReview titles their review "the $99 Tablet Worth Buying" and as usual Lisa Gade has a detailed, 15-minute hands-on video review of the tablet, and she even includes size comparisons with the 6" e-Ink Kindle eReader.  Also, here's her, as usual, very balanced text review.  The tablet doesn't have enough storage for large game apps with complex graphics and action. & It's a tablet for the very budget-minded consumer who still wants one with good quality.

The new Fire OS 4 system features are being added to LAST YEAR's Kindle Fire tablet line also !
Fire OS 4 "Sangria", just launched with the new Fire tablets, is being added to last year's Kindle Fire tablets, according to reports of a letter from Jeff Bezos showing up on some tablets to announce that it'll come in a few weeks.  However, I have an 8.9" Kindle Fire HDX and did not get the letter.  There was a recent update (which I've not reported since it was a maintenance update and contained no new features) but no special communique.
 The 7" HDX was kept as a current tablet this year, not replaced by another 7" model, and some of us were a bit worried about the lack of that letter.

  I made an inquiry to Amazon about this and received confirmation that the lack of that letter on other 3rd Generation tablets doesn't indicate they're being ignored for this update.
" The update will roll back to all 3rd gen Fire tablets - so, Fire HDX 7, Fire HDX 8.9 and Fire HD. "
  Again here is the product page area describing in detail the highly-anticipated features of the new Fire OS 4.

  These features are already being received well on the just-shipped Fire HD 6", mentioned above.

Kindle-First feature now available in the UK as well
The Kindle First program, introduced by Amazon in the U.S. is finally also available in the UK.

  For those who haven't tried it yet, in either country, Amazon offers, each month, 4 of the next month's new releases early and from these you can select one.  They're Editors' Picks, and anyone can buy one of the featured book for $.99 (or UK £0.99).  HOWEVER if you are a Prime (UK prime page here) program member, you get that selection for FREE (capitalization courtesy of Amazon).

For the U.S., Here are October's four now, from releases due for release November.

(As a U.S. customer, I'm not allowed by Amazon UK to see their Kindle book selections.)

Credit: Thanks to Edward Boyhan for noting the Engadget report on BloombergBusinessweek's article.

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