Amazon's Fire TV would face a hard battle to win Australia's lounge rooms
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Amazon's Fire TV would face a hard battle to win Australia's lounge rooms

The battle for control of Australian lounge rooms is hotting up, with the Telstra TV 2 and Foxtel Now boxes making it easier for cable cutters to watch premium Foxtel content like HBO's Game of Thrones. They're the latest in a procession of set-top boxes and HDMI dongles aiming to bring the best of the internet to the biggest screen in our homes.

But will Amazon's Fire TV be the next in a long line of smart media players aiming to be your one home entertainment device to rule them all?

Amazon's Android-powered Fire TV media player, compatible with a Bluetooth remote and gaming controller.

Amazon's Android-powered Fire TV media player, compatible with a Bluetooth remote and gaming controller.

Amazon has revealed that the start of its full-scale assault on Australian retail is "very close", and while the plans have not yet been detailed they will likely involve local availability of the Fire TV. This would put Amazon against not just Telstra and Foxtel but also the Apple TV and Google Chromecast from fellow tech giants, as well as local streaming champion Fetch TV with its Mighty and Mini.

Amazon offers several Fire TV optionsin the US, but it remains to be seen which will come to Australia. The Fire TV box competes with the Apple TV, offering Ultra HD video resolution along with the ability to run extra apps and games with support for wireless controllers. Meanwhile the cheaper Fire TV Stick competes with Google's Chromecast dongle.

Amazon's tiny Fire TV Stick designed to compete with Google's Chromecast.

Amazon's tiny Fire TV Stick designed to compete with Google's Chromecast.

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There's a smartphone app to drive the Fire TV devices or you can control them by talking to Amazon's Alexa smart speakers like the Echo Dot, which may also come to Australia to compete against the Google Home and Apple HomePod speakers.

Unlike the Chromecast, both Fire TV models join the Apple TV in shipping with a physical remote control — with built-in voice control — to sit on your coffee table. This remote will be redundant in some lounge rooms, but welcome in others if some members of the household don't always want to reach for a smartphone in order to watch television.

One catch is that the Amazon remote control relies on Bluetooth and the Fire TV devices don't have an infrared receiver, presumably because they're designed to hide behind your television like a Chromecast rather than sitting out in the open like an Apple TV. This means you can't use the Amazon streaming players with an infrared universal remote such as a Logitech Harmony, unless the remote comes with a Bluetooth hub.

Whenever the Amazon Fire TV family is unveiled for Australia — and you could reasonably expect a push before Christmas — they will arrive in a crowded market. You could speculate that the Telstra TV 2 and Foxtel Now boxes were timed to beat Amazon to the punch.

The Grand Tour is part of Amazon's original programming designed to help sell the Fire TV.

The Grand Tour is part of Amazon's original programming designed to help sell the Fire TV.

The Amazon Prime Video streaming service was half-heartedly launched in Australia this time last year and takeup still languishes far behind rivals Netflix, Stan (co-owned by Fairfax Media) and Foxtel Now. If Amazon was serious it should have brought the Fire TV family to Australia at the same time as it launched its video service, to battle head-to-head with the Chromecast and Apple TV.

The Fire TV might have left its run too late in Australia. We're clearly happy to subscribe to multiple Subscription Video on Demand services but most people don't want to juggle too many devices, and by now most Australian homes have settled on their streaming device of choice.

Amazon might muscle its way in by giving away the Fire TV to Australian Amazon Prime customers, just like Telstra bundles the Telstra TV 2 and other ISPs offer Fetch TV.

However it decides to approach Australia, Amazon's Fire TV has a fight on its hands to win pride of place in Australian lounge rooms.

Adam Turner

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.

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