While Apple launched a 4K TV last week as part of a much-hyped September hardware announcement, Amazon quietly stopped selling its Fire TV platform amid reports it has been developing new TV products, one of which potentially integrates the Alexa virtual assistant, according to The Verge and several other published reports.
One of the new Fire TV products is a cube that has far-field microphones and a speaker, similar to an Echo Dot, suggesting it will include Alexa for hands-free interaction and potentially other voice-controlled functions, according to an exclusive report from AFTVnews, which also stated the new products are due out before.
The decision to stop Fire TV sales comes a little over three months after Amazon began rolling out an app that allowed users of Fire TV gadgets to shop through their TVs.
Apple, for whom TV products have presented a consistent challenge, announced its Apple 4K TV with HDR last week as part of a broader bundle of annual September hardware announcements. For Apple, that unveiling represented its latest effort to best — or some would say, catch up to — Amazon in the TV platform race.
The report that Amazon has stopped selling its Fire TV platform (though not the Fire TV stick) was surprising to some, and could be read a number of different ways. However, the AFTVnews report that Amazon is readying new TV gadgets likely means that it is redoubling efforts to jump ahead of Apple, Roku and others
What does all this mean for the retail sector? Well, we're guessing that Amazon's shopping app for its Fire TV products is something that will live on beyond the original Fire TV platform and probably will be incorporated in some form in any new Fire TV products. Also, Amazon already had been working to integrate the Alexa virtual assistant into the Fire TV platform, announcing in July that Alexa could be used to control Fire TV features.
It seems now like Alexa could have a more prominent place in the new cube-like Fire TV product, and that Amazon is actually revamping Fire TV to something more like the look and feel of its wildly popular Echo products. Users of the new Fire TV gadgets could use Alexa through the Fire TV to place shopping orders, as Alexa does through the Echo devices.
The assumptions are piling up and Amazon hasn't said anything official about all of this yet, but one thing we do know is that where Alexa goes, shopping dollars follow.