This week, we took a closer look at the latest Fire TV from Amazon. It is no revelation that the Fire TV does not come running on the Android TV platform but instead, comes running on Fire OS, Amazon's own flavor of Android. Which in truth, although not surprising, was disappointing. If the Fire TV had come running on Android TV, it would have been a great addition to the family of devices.
For instance, when you take the Fire TV on its own, the device is really good and especially at the price point. At $99, it is launching for pretty much the same price that the Nexus Player first launched for and feels like it could have been the real successor for the Nexus Player for this year. A nice clean hardware box, small and 4K capable. But as it is restricted to Fire OS, it just did feel too limiting. There is no doubting that the biggest selling point is the access to Prime Instant Video and it was felt that Amazon may has missed a trick here. Yes, they want to ensure that Instant Video is only usable on their devices and is why they seem to point blank refuse to release a general Android TV app. However, NVIDIA is really starting to highlight that a manufacturer can release a device on Android TV which makes use of all the general Android TV features and services, but still maintains access to specific games and apps through their devices. These are the SHIELD exclusive content that the company seems to be rolling out on a routine basis. If Amazon had decided to go down this route, they could have maintained a selling point for their devices, Prime Instant Video exclusivity and still offered a product which would be more widely usable.
Now, immediately some will be saying, yes, but if they did that, the APK would have been pulled and installed on other devices and used by everyone and maybe this is true. But keeping in mind, you do need an Amazon account linked to get Prime to work may have been a way for Amazon to circumvent this issue and ensure a more Fire TV oriented selling point. At the very least, made the Fire TV much more appealing as an alternative. This would have been a real way for Amazon to break into the Android TV market this year and especially in the absence of any 2015 Nexus Player. If the Fire TV had come running on Android TV, with exclusive Amazon tweaks, access to Prime Instant Video and Fire games and all at the $99 price point, then this would have been a seriously good option for those entering the market. Half the price of the SHIELD, offering Netflix and Instant video from the same device, 4K streaming and exclusive games content, this could have been a real winner. However, the fact that it does not, the fact that most of the apps I currently own do not work or have to be again downloading from Amazon, does not lead for a reason to personally pick up the Fire TV. In fact, it turns the device into a 'one or the other' type of deal which is such a shame. The features on offer with the Fire TV could have seen it become a very powerful option in the Android TV world, although, in its current form, does not seem as appealing especially if you are thinking about crossing over from a Nexus Player.