Not so long ago, Amazon’s Echo was simply an intelligent, voice-controlled speaker, anchored to a room in your home. With today’s announcement of more than a dozen new devices, plus an Echo chip, it’s moving way beyond that. Amazon is creating what you might call an “Echo-System” of devices, so that Alexa is a constant companion (and personal shopping assistant), no matter where you are. Functionality is the pitch, but shop-ability is the real end game.
To illustrate the point, Amazon launched Echo Auto, which mounts to your dash and takes Alexa on the road. For $50 ($25 as an introductory offer), Alexa will not only play music, offer directions, and make calls, but open your garage door…and also your wallet. (“Alexa, order milk on my way home.”)
In the kitchen, Alexa will now be baked into the AmazonBasics microwave, allowing you to defrost, cook and reheat hands-free (“Hey Alexa, defrost my peas”.) The clever appliance will also remember to reorder your favorite snack via “Auto Popcorn Replenishment”. (See – Amazon never misses an opportunity to stock that cart.)
The real kicker to the prospect of Alexa Everywhere is the “Alexa Connect Kit”. As reported in the Wall Street Journal “green printed circuit boards – roughly as big as a quarter – contain a chip and a WiFi antenna, and will be available for purchase from a third-party manufacturer”. Companies such as Hamilton Beach are trialling the Connect Kit. In the near future, you might imagine an Alexa-enabled toaster that is the best thing since…well, you know. And it might re-order your bread too.
Amazon has also upgraded the performance and industrial design of its core Echo range. There’s a brand new second generation Echo Show which is now way less clunky.
There’s also a new third generation Echo Dot, and an Echo Sub Bundle, with a pair of Gen-2 Echo speakers and a newly released Echo sub-woofer. The latter promises rich, room-filling sound, and because you can also ask it to order your groceries, it might make Jeff Bezos richer too.
Alexa will now find her way onto your wall as well. Amazon calls Echo Clock a “companion” device, which will pair with your Echo smart speaker to display timers, an oft-used feature.
Beyond products, the Devices Event today also presented new Echo functions, like Doorbell Chime Announcements, so you’ll hear a chime on all your Echos whenever someone rings your smart doorbell. (Useful when an Amazon package arrives, no doubt.)
Outside of today’s presentation, Alexa’s expansion will infiltrate not only our consumer lives, but our work lives too. Amazon now offers Alexa For Business, which enables conference calls, acts as an intelligent assistant, and lets you order office supplies.
Amazon currently has three published pillars of its business – its third-party marketplace, Amazon Web Services cloud computing, and Amazon Prime. Earlier this year, Jeff Bezos said that he is “hopeful that we’ll find a fourth pillar” and flirted with three possibilities – Amazon Studios award-winning original content, the company’s investments in India, and…Amazon Alexa. With the continued growth of the Alexa “Echo-System”, it’s increasingly likely that the product will cement into that fourth pillar of success.