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Amazon Intros Fire TV Stick, Competes with Google Chromecast

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While Amazon introduced its first television device -- the Amazon Fire TV -- less than seven months ago, the company is ready to make its second play for the living room market with a stick device. The Amazon Fire TV Stick looks like the Google Chromecast at first glance, but it seems targeted to a more of a mainstream buyer.

The Fire TV Stick plugs directly into a television's HDMI port, so there's no set-top box to position. Owners can use their phones to control selections, but they're more likely to use the included remote. Unlike the Chromecast, the Fire TV Stick comes with a remote. That's a good idea, since the device only offers Fire Phone and Android apps at launch. Amazon says an iOS app is in the works. Fire TV apps include voice search. The included remote doesn't include voice search but a $29 optional remote does.

Amazon is hyping the Fire TV Stick on its components, which include a dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of storage, and dual-band dual-antenna Wi-Fi. It has twice the memory of Chromecast, Amazon says, and will intelligently pre-buffer Amazon content so viewers get instant start-up times.

The Fire TV Stick differs from the Chromecast in casting abilities. The appeal of the Chromecast is that developers can build Chromecast support into their apps, which hundreds have done, allowing users to stream directly from their favorite apps. Amazon says its stick supports casting for YouTube and Spotify, with Netflix coming soon.

For households already invested in the Amazon ecosystem, the Fire TV Stick is a good idea. It's available now for pre-order for $39, but Amazon Prime members can get it for $19 for the next two days (with a limit of two per customer). Amazon syncs video and music content automatically between Amazon devices, the stick can access personal content from Amazon Cloud Drive accounts, and purchased content is stored in the cloud. Existing Roku or Apple TV owners, however, probably won't be tempted to switch. 

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