Amazon is joining Roku and Google in embedding the capabilities of over-the-top media-streaming dongles and set-top boxes into TVs.
At CES, Westinghouse is launching four UItraHD 4K TVs that run on the Amazon Fire TV OS and access the same content as Fire TV media streamers.
The Westinghouse Fire TV models, targeted to cord cutters, will be available in the second quarter in screen sizes of 43, 50, 55 and 65 inches at prices that weren’t available at press time. They lack high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut but will be Netflix-certified. Future versions will get HDR, a spokesman said.
Westinghouse is also developing TVs incorporating the Google Cast OS, now called Chromecast built-in, following in the footsteps of Vizio and P&F USA’s Philips brand. And Polaroid is showing its first Chromecast TVs at CES. Westinghouse’s Chromecast TVs are due sometime in 2017 after the release of the Fire TV-equipped products. “We are still working on the Google Cast OS, but the Fire TV is further along,” a spokesperson said of the Fire TV launch.
The Fire TV models will offer some additional features not available in the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV settop box, including the integration of over-the-air TV content into the operating system without needing to toggle between sources, Westinghouse said. The TVs will also sport a different look and feel plus more memory.
The new TVs will come with an Alexa Voice Remote that taps the Alexa Voice Service to enable natural-language voice control of the TVs’ media-streaming apps and other capabilities, or “skills,” including control of smart-home devices from more than 50 companies, including select Samsung and GE major appliances. A total of more than 3,000 skills can be activated by voice with voice responses, including purchasing items on Amazon, ordering an Uber ride or Domino’s pizza, asking questions of Wikipedia, creating shopping lists, checking personal calendars, getting traffic reports, and the like.
Through the TVs’ Alexa Voice Remote, consumers will be able to launch apps and switch among sources, including over-the-air TV channels. “You can plug in your over-the-air antenna, and the signal will be integrated in to the operating system with no need to switch between sources, a spokesman said.
Consumers can use their voice to select more than 250,000 TV episodes and movies available through the TVs’ video apps, including Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, and Sling TV, which offers live TV-channel streaming.
The voice remote lets users search across apps for TV shows, movies, actors and genres. Alexa on Fire TVs “provides a similar if not identical voice experience to Alexa on Echo-family devices [speakers],” Westinghouse added.
In the future, Amazon plans to deliver Alexa control of Fire-equipped TVs through the far-field microphones built into the $179.99 Amazon Echo and $49.99 Echo Dot Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speakers, enabling users to engage in a conversation with Alexa from across a room, Westinghouse also said.
Amazon also plans deeper integration of Alexa voice control into core Fire TV entertainment experiences, such as scene navigation and voice control of third-party apps, Westinghouse noted. Amazon also wants to coordinate media playback across Alexa-enabled devices.
TV features: The Westinghouse Fire TVs support such 4K streaming services as Netfliz and Amazon. Specs include 3GB RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, four HDMI 2.0 inputs supporting 60Hz 4K video and HDCP 2.2, Ethernet port, and two USB inputs, one of which is USB 3.0.
Toll-free 24/7 customer support will be available from Westinghouse and Amazon.
Through Netflix certification, the TVs meet minimum Netflix-selected standards for performance, including instant-on capability to display apps as soon as the TV is turned on, a prominently displayed Netflix app, the latest version of Netflix; fast app launch and resume, and fast playback start.
Smart-home integration: For smart-home adopters, the brands that integrate with Alexa read like a who’s who of smart-home suppliers. Suppliers of Alexa-compatible smart-home hubs include HomeSeer, Ingersoll Rand’s Nexia, Insteon, Logitech Harmony, Lowe’s Iris, MyFox, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink.
Control4, which sells custom-installed smart-home systems, recently added Alexa voice control, as have ADT, Alarm.com, and Vivint, the suppliers of professionally installed security and smart-home systems.
In addition, multiple brands of smart plugs, in-wall dimmer switches, smart bulbs, thermostats, and door locks talk to Alexa. To talk with Alexa, however, some of these products must be connected to an Alexa-enabled smart-home hub, custom-installed home-automation system, or security panel that controls multiple brands of smart-home products.
Select major appliances from GE and Samsung also get along with Alexa.