A year ago in Las Vegas, Amazon and some budget TV manufacturing partners announced the first-ever “Fire TV Edition” televisions. They were designed to compete with the fast-growing number of TVs that come with Roku’s software as the built-in operating system. Roku TVs are everywhere, and the momentum of companies that make them — such as TCL and Hisense — is only growing.
The Element/Westinghouse-branded Fire TV Edition televisions were an attempt to slow Roku’s living room charge and expand Amazon’s stake beyond streaming devices like the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. There’s no faster way of getting consumers to Prime Video than serving as the central software on their TV. Amazon can do no better than when consumers see a row of originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel the minute they power on their TV. The Fire TV Edition was priced aggressively and heavily promoted on Amazon’s homepage.
Amazon’s first Fire TV Edition had an excellent software experience, but average picture
And the software experience was indeed excellent — especially for a first go at it. Anyone who has ever used a Fire TV streaming device felt immediately at home. Amazon even built features specifically for cord-cutters like a guide for OTA antenna TV channels and the ability to pause that same OTA programming. Alexa voice support was built into the Element TV’s remote from the start, and after a couple months, Amazon introduced the ability to control the TV with a nearby Echo. The picture quality was the weakest piece. It was average in every sense, made only worse by Amazon’s timing. The Fire TV Edition premiered alongside a new generation of Roku TVs with excellent 4K HDR video. I assumed the next go-round would combine the great, fluid software experience with a better TV panel. It only made sense that we’d see something at CES 2018.
But that hasn’t happened. As far as I know, there’s not a single TV announced at this year’s show that comes with Fire TV OS as its software. So much for assumptions.
Many TVs on the CES floor have support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, giving them the convenience of voice commands and smart home control. And probably an even greater number feature a preloaded Prime Video app. So it’s not as if Amazon is dealing with any type of shutout — unless you’re looking through the lens of Fire TV OS. The competition is visible at every turn. Roku OS and, to a smaller degree, Android TV can be seen on their fair share of just-announced TVs around the convention center. Same goes for TVs that use Chromecast as their default operating system. (And like Alexa, Google Assistant integration is expanding across many different TV brands like LG’s lineup.)
At least Alexa is crushing it everywhere at CES
But a year after its debut, Fire TV OS isn’t here to continue Amazon’s fight with Roku to serve as the out-of-the-box brains of your TV. It could be that developing the next Fire TV Edition TVs is taking longer than anticipated and has stretched beyond a 12-month cycle. Or maybe Amazon doesn’t really care about announcing them at CES despite its reputation as the big TV showcase for the year ahead. There’s got to be something in the works; AFTVnews recently discovered references to 2nd-gen Fire TV Edition televisions in some of Amazon’s code.
Barring a surprise announcement later this week, whatever Amazon’s plan is for Fire TV OS doesn’t seem to involve CES 2018. The Verge has reached out to Amazon and Element for comment.