Putting your smart TV OS on a soundbar instead of on a box, stick, or in your TV itself has gone from a small curiosity to a certified trend in the past few months. Amazon’s efforts started with the Anker Nebula soundbar back in September, and this year at CES, Amazon is announcing a couple more from TCL. More importantly, it’s planning on beefing up future Fire TV soundbars into proper media switchers.
Later this year, soundbars with Fire TV will gain support for Dolby Atmos, HDMI switching, far-field microphones for Alexa, and “device control” (which is presumably code for IR blasters like what’s available with the Fire TV Cube now). It’s a bigger deal than the list of new features implies because many consumers find it most convenient to use their soundbar as the central hub for their entertainment system.
With the proliferation of gaming consoles, cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and whatever else you might want to plug into your TV, the first question people need to answer is: what will do all the switching between those things? Your TV may not have enough HDMI ports, for example.
Whatever you pick to be the place into which you plug all of those things is likely to become the control hub, as it’s the device that’s most aware of what’s on your system. So these features are strategically important for Amazon, too. If it can make the gadget running Fire TV the central switching hub for everything you’re watching, that will mean you’re more likely to use Fire TV than whatever software happens to be on your smart TV.
You can also expect Fire TV to start showing up in a lot more things. Alongside this soundbar announcement, Amazon says that it is putting Fire TV in the seatbacks of BMW and Chrysler vehicles. It is also expanding its “Fire TV Edition” program — the thing that allows various device makers to embed Fire TV in their devices. To date, it’s mostly been used on smart TVs, but Amazon says it’s expanding it for “operators” like your cell carrier and “certified solutions providers” such as auto integrators and even cable box manufacturers.
There’s a running joke in the tech industry about “Bezos Numbers,” which are stats touted by Amazon about percent growth or most ever that sound big but don’t actually provide concrete details. Well, with Fire TV, Amazon is going even further. You may have heard of Bezos Numbers, but have you ever seen such a glorious Bezos Chart?
If you’re interested in a Fire TV soundbar and don’t want to wait for the new features, you can get a Nebula soundbar today. Amazon says the “TCL Alto 8+ Soundbar–Fire TV Edition is available on Amazon in the United States and Canada. For people in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, TCL TS8011 Soundbar–Fire TV Edition will be coming soon.