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Amazon moving fast to improve Fire TV


The Amazon Fire TV - a new device that allows users to stream video, music, photos, games and more through a television - along with its remote control and gaming controller, is displayed at a media event on April 2, 2014 in New York. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Amazon.com's big entry into the entertainment market came earlier this month in the form of the Fire TV -- a set-top box that brings video from its own service and those of its partners to your living room.

Unified voice search is the key way that Amazon plans to distinguish itself from the Apple TVs, Roku boxes and Chromecasts of the world, because it offers a simple way to sift through the thousands of titles offered on the service. In fact, this was the main selling point in its first commercial, a bizarre spot starring Gary Busey happily talking to inanimate objects.

But the reality fell short of the promise, at least in the initial release window. The lack of voice search integration into other apps on the Fire TV was a main criticism many people -- including yours truly -- raised about the set-top box in initial reviews of the product.

On Thursday, the company announced that it would be extending the device's voice search capabilities to a handful of third-party apps including Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime's app, Showtime Anytime, starting this summer.

These three apps will join Vevo, which already allowed users to search for content by simply speaking into Amazon's remote. Amazon's own service, of course, also works with the voice search feature.

If Amazon continues to add the capability to the catalog of apps already signed on to its platform -- particularly big partners such as  Netflix or YouTube -- that will help it a lot as it battles the likes of Apple, Roku and Microsoft to control the living room. This announcement shows that while Fire TV still needs time to grow into all of its promises, Amazon seems to be moving at a good pace to improve the device.

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(Amazon.com chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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