This is my liveblog of Amazon’s press event Tuesday, April 2, 2014 in New York City to announce a new video business.
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Thanks for following along, and please feel free to spread this link to others who might be interested in what Amazon announces today about video.
Hello from Boston’s South Station. I am about to board Amtrak’s Acela train to New York City. I am scheduled to arrive at 9:45 a.m., and the Amazon update on video will begin at 11 a.m. at Milk Studios, 450 West 15th Street. We’ve been notified that there won’t be enough seats for everyone, a standing room only crowd anticipated. So I hope I can get from Penn Station to the press event without delay.
If I am one of the SRO attendees it will be tougher to keep up this live blog, but I will give it a try.
I’ve taken my seat in the blessed Quiet Car of the Acela. Not that I expect to sleep much, but I prefer not to be within earshot of any cellphone conversations. The iPad mini is happily connected to power, and the Logitech keyboard is working flawlessly.
It seems as if Amazon underestimated interest in today’s press event. An email last night warned that seating would be on a first come, first served basis and that there will be some who find standing room only. This makes my transit from Penn Station to the Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street a key part of today’s adventure. Google Maps says it’s about 15 minutes by subway, which might be the fastest option. Or I might give UberX a try.
We just pulled away from South Station exactly on time, 6:05 a.m. EDT. All aboard!
The Quiet Car is so quiet that the woman who takes seat next to me in Providence asks, “Will it bother you if I eat this?” as she carefully unwraps the foil around her bagel. Sweet.
Horrors! Someone is snoring in the Quiet Car….
You get a wonderful view of the ocean on the left side of the train, alternating with wooded sections and the backyards of homes. The tree branches and underbrush are still leafless and somber looking, waiting for spring.
I know I should be catching a few winks, but it is way too much fun to play with Google Glass, Twitter, email, and text. If all goes well, we will arrive at Penn Station in an hour and a half. I’ve checked Uber and will give it a try. A five-minute ride may cost $25 but that will be well worth it, if the speedier arrival time increases my chances of a seat!
Here is my speculation on whether or not Jeff Bezos will take the stage in a couple of hours at the Amazon press event in NYC:
Since the topic has to do with video, it makes sense that Amazon’s invitation to media reps highlighted Kindle VP Peter Larsen. Bezos is comfortable talking about the Kindle and Kindle Fire, because he’s a reader who is married to a novelist. Do he and Mrs. B watch much TV? I doubt it. But he IS founder and CEO of the company, and today’s press event will command worldwide attention. I just don’t see Bezos staying in Seattle for it.
I expect Jeff Bezos will be the first person to take the stage at Milk Studios when the lights dim, and that he will introduce Larsen for the detailed description of whatever it is Amazon will announce in two hours.
I bet Bezos is tired of people’s comparing him to the late Steve Jobs, but if Amazon has something else big up its sleeve, how could Jeff resist a “one more thing” moment at the end of today’s presser? Maybe that 3D Kindle phone is closer to reality than we’ve heard so far. Maybe it’s time for a free Kindle for Amazon Prime members. Maybe we will learn about Amazon Vox.
Amazon Vox? That’s another story, and you will hear James McQuivey of Forrester Research tell it in this week’s Kindle Chronicles episode, due Friday. I recorded a fascinating interview with James a week ago, and he will be at the NYC event, so we may have a chance for a quick followup chat after the announcement. Stay tuned!
Now I know why they were worried about having enough seats. The room where the press conference will be held is arranged like–a living room! Comfy sofas arranged facing a big flat screen and bookcase with books and plants and sculpture, just like your coziest room of the house.
I scored a seat in the front row, so there should be a chance for decent video by Google Glass. Show is scheduled to start in about 20 minutes.
Peter Larsen, KIndle VP, has taken a chair near the stage. He wears jeans and funky KEDS-style sneakers with white outline along the bottom. His lavalier mic is clipped between the top and second buttons of his light blue shirt. Not a button-down, but snappy. Craig Berman of Amazon, who took a nice photo of me with my iPhone, talks into his shirt cuff like a Secret Service guy, complete with coiled wire going up to his right ear.
I don’t think Jeff is going to be here. The vibe would be more frantic if he were in the house. We’ll know soon.
Show time! A video plays on the screen, showing lots of cool shows – Justified, Downton Abbey, “favorites you won’t find anywhere else” a caption says. We are seeing all the video now offered by Amazon through Kindle Fire and other tablets, computers, and smartphones. And now…
Peter Larsen gives props to Netflix and Hulu for creating content. Customers love it, and also the Amazon content, of course.
Amazon sells lots of streaming media devices and hears from customers that search is too hard. He does a demo of hunting and pecking through a TV remote to find a John Malkovich movie. Customers say using a four direction pointer is a nightmare, like the old Nintendo.
One. Letter. At. A. Time.
Second gripe from customers: lagging performance. “It’s painful.” You’ve negotiated on what to watch, and you see the gear going around. The dreaded spinner.
This is what Amazon does better than most: listen to its customers, then design stuff that will meet their needs better than stuff made by companies who don’t listen as well.
Third thing customers hate: closed ecosystems. “We need to invent and simplify on behalf of customers,” Larsen says. Amazon is pretty good at this, he avers, recalling the breakthrough of shopping with your mouse.
Amazon led the effort to enable using tablets during takeoff on flights, Larsen says. Also notes brilliant innovation of Mayday button on Fire HDX.
“Technology in the service of simplicity.” Took same approach to living room. How do we make the complexity disappear. Like we did with the Kindle.
Introducing Fire TV! Here’s our Oprah moment – everyone here gets to take one home today. Nice!
Fast processor, 2 GB of RAM. “The device disappears into the background.” Dual band, dual antenna MIMO, state of the art so videos start streaming immediately.
This thing really screams; I can’t wait for you guys to try it out.
Three times the power of Apple, Roku, and Chromecast devices. Thinner than a dime. Graphic shows M&Ms next to it, looking huge. This thin is indeed tiny.
Comes with a sleek remote control, about the size of a Hersey bar.
Graphic shows FireTV remote in action, next to a few popcorn kernels.
The interface is just like Kindle Fire – drop dead simple to navigate. You get your Watchlist, you scroll through movies like the carousel. Natural interface.
Comes preregistered, ready and waiting for you.
ASAP predicts what movies and tv shows you will watch and queues them up so you start watching instantly.
If movies really start that fast, it’s going to be amazing. No dreaded spinner.
These incremental improvements in interface are Amazon’s genius. The reason the Kindle beat the Sony Reader? You could download books without messing with a stupid USB cable connected to your computer. Every time they make something easier to use, more people use it. Radical idea, right?
You can choose the lowest cost option for viewing a show. Can buy from Netflix, Hulu, anyone. Or get it free on Amazon. I think there is free content from Hulu Plus, too.
Now showing clips from Alpha House and other original Amazon content. Now the investment in those projects makes more sense. It’s going to be VERY easy to watch them on the biggest screen in your home.
BTW, I am very glad there will be a Season 2 for Alpha House.
Good line: You can watch Alpha House AND House of Cards on FireTV. Not a closed ecosystem.
Plus: You talk to FireTV to tell it what you want to watch. No more letter by letter search.
Voice Search can spell stuff you can’t like Umizoomi. No clue.
This is voice search that actually works. You talk into the remote control.
“Let’s try a movie.” Search for all the Oscar nominees. You can add them to your watchlist. They’re ready and waiting for you on all your devices.
“Princess movies” brings up every princess movie known to man…
Someone tries to ask a question, “Can you filter for everything that’s free.” no answers yet.
Search, performance, open ecosystem… Solved those problems. Now the extras:
Photos. You take them on smartphone but TV best place to watch them. Peter takes a quick shot of us with his iPhone. Cloud Drive app on iPhone, also on Android, makes the photo upload in background to Amazon cloud. So it will be on FireTV momentarily. Scrolls to photos library and hops over to photo. A dude in the first row is wearing Google Glass! Sweet.
Photos show up in a nice mosaic that scrolls across your big screen.
X-Ray for TV made simple. You can find out about music playing in background, actor information. IMDB data is integrated. Im not sure how you access it. With the remote, I guess.
Next month, music will be added. Yours on Amazon and other sources. “Happy
” from Pharrell Williams. You see lyrics, just like on Kindle Fire. I do actually love that feature.
FreeTime tv for kids 3-8, now available on TV. Great idea. If his daughter is watching FreeTime, it’s whitelisted material appropriate for her. Gives parents peace of mind. They can search for characters. Or they can search for dinosaurs.
Parents can limit TV time, different on weekdays and weekends. When his daughter reaches time limit it tells her to go outside and play. “It helps me not have to be a sheriff in the living room all the time.”
FreeTime Unlimited is a subscription to age-appropriate content. Reduces contention between kids and parents.
Not mentioned yet: what does this FireTV cost? I’m guessing $19.99. Maybe free for Amazon Prime members? No idea if that’s plausible. But we are definitely setting the stage for an OMG moment when Peter Larsen finally reveals the price.
Mike Frezeeni (sp?) now takes the stage, wearing cool sneakers, to talk about games. EA, Disney, SEGA, and hundreds of video game developers.
This takes me way out of my area of expertise and interest, frankly, but I’m sure it will be a significant enhancement of FireTV.
Dedicated game controller – comfortable, familiar, like others you know, connects to FireTV. Another Oprah moment: We’ll get a controller to take home, too. And 1,000 Amazon coins.
Minecraft for FireTV. Demo by another Amazon guy, NOT wearing sneakers. Didn’t get the fashion memo, I guess.
BTW, the game controller costs just under $40.
You can use smartphones and tablets as controllers, too.
Someone is chasing Archie the Pig…. Can be played by customers of all ages. OK, I’ll try it. Or maybe this cool one where you get to race fancy cars through the Swiss Alps.
FireTV costs $99, available today. (Feel free to use the Amazon ad to the right of this screen to click over to Amazon.com to make your purchase!)
Now we get to play with FireTV. And I won’t forget to take home my free box. AND a game controller.
That’s it for now. I need to circulate and do some recordings. Thanks for joining me here on the couch at the Amazon press conference. This was a blast.