October 4, 2017
Amazon is making a big push to be everywhere in the smart home, which is why its devices are relatively inexpensive: the new Amazon Echo is $99.99, Echo Plus is $149.99, Echo Spot is $129.99 and the new Fire TV stick is $69.99. The company is betting on being ubiquitous enough in homes to become the de facto standard for smart home devices — in essence, a new operating system. Proof that Amazon is playing a long game is the Echo Plus, which with a single command could turn off the lights, lock the door and turn off the TV.
ZDNet notes that Amazon’s rival Apple isn’t moving as quickly, with HomePod yet to debut. Amazon, meanwhile, just inked another deal to “make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app,” as well as “have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks.” In January, Amazon and Ford also revealed they were working together on voice commands in the vehicle.
Alexa has taken off, says ZDNet, because “unlike voice assistants like Siri or Google Assistant, it’s not trying to cannibalize other ways of communicating with devices, but actually doing new stuff.” As a result, it adds, “Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers.”
Recode says that Amazon’s flurry of five new products, including the Echo Buttons for trivia or games at $20 and a $35 Echo Connect device to turn the home phone line into an “Alexa-powered speaker phone,” is because, “Amazon hasn’t found one, single no-brainer use case for the Echo, so it’s releasing different form factors that can push different behavior.”
Each device shines at specific activities; “the beauty of Alexa is that all of these devices come with the same brain that can offer many of the same experiences.” Recode thinks it is “likely, some new Echos will drive use cases that become way more popular than others, helping Amazon to focus more on fewer variations over the long-term.”
The New York Times adds that, “Amazon prides itself on its almost pathological focus on what its customers want, rather than what its competitors are doing,” although the five new Alexa products are “clearly a response, at least in part, to new smart speaker offerings from Google and Apple.” Aggressive pricing, it adds, is Amazon’s way to “defend its franchise.”
Amazon senior vice president of devices and services David Limp said “the company had about 5,000 employees working on Alexa projects” and that “tens of millions had been sold.” “They’re literally scattering them around the house, putting them in hallways, workshops and garages,” he said.
Amazon’s New Fire TV Gives Alexa One More Place to Live, Wired, 9/27/17
This Is Amazon’s New $70 Fire TV with 4K and HDR Support, TechCrunch, 9/27/17
Amazon Unveils $35 Gadget for Hands-Free Landline Phone Calls, Bloomberg, 9/27/17