Unlike most tech giants, Amazon doesn’t seem to care about the hype train or flashy events. Amazon’s surprise event yesterday saw the unveiling of an entirely new range of Alexa-powered Echo devices that should be as threatening to competition as the unveiling was surprising.
The devices, which includes two Echo speakers, a new Fire TV, an alarm clock of sorts and a pair of wireless buttons (we kid you not), change the game as far as Amazon’s smart home aspirations are concerned.
It’s also interesting that the most expensive device of the lot, an Echo Plus with an integrated smart home hub, starts at just $149, much cheaper than smart speaker offering from rival Apple. Amazon’s offerings also take on Google’s products, seemingly offering better value at the same price point. Amazon’s cheapest speaker is $99 to Google Home’s $130, supports Dolby sound and can stream audio to multiple devices simultaneously. Better yet, they can be bought in a 3-pack with a $50 discount.
This concept of ordering in bulk, which we saw earlier with the $50 Kindle Fire tablets, is something that will never apply to Apple or Google devices. Looking at the price range of the devices and the plethora of devices on offer, Amazon clearly wants to be everywhere in your house.
In Amazon’s world, you’ll have the Echo Plus in your living room or bedroom, it’s smart home hub controlling every aspect of your home. You’ll toss in an Echo in every room, place an Echo Spot near your bed, hook up your landline to the Echo Connect and your TV to the Fire TV Stick. The buttons are an odd pair because they’re simply, well, buttons. They don’t talk back or play music or display information or anything else. Right now, you can use them to interact with Alexa — on an Echo speaker — in games like Trivia.
Personally, I suspect that those buttons are there only to get the family involved with Alexa. Playing trivia games over dinner, mashing the button and shouting answers at Alexa is sure to get everyone hooked to the platform.
Regardless, the cost of furnishing your house with Echo devices will be lower than if you were to do the same with Apple or Google devices. TechCrunch points to rumours that Google might unveil an Echo Dot like speaker and suggests that “Google was already playing catch-up and now it’s nearly inconceivable Google or Apple will be able to catch Amazon.”
Of course, this argument doesn’t preclude the fact that the devices might not be successful. They’re priced right, but would you really want an Echo Spot sit and stare at you while you’re in your bedroom, for example? If you’re entrenched in an Apple ecosystem, shifting from Siri to Alexa might also not be that easy.
In fact, as USA Today notes, the lack of mobility might be Amazon’s undoing. “The big question is whether people are willing to use several different assistants based on location — Alexa at home, Siri or Google while out and about — or whether they’ll eventually settle on one which they can use everywhere?” Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research tells the website.
However, as TechCrunch and Business Insider note, this may not really be a concern for Amazon. Jeff Bezos, and Amazon by extension embraces failure and is not afraid to try something new. The company has had a history of introducing new technology and waiting for the market to respond. If the market responds favourably, as in the case of the Kindle and Amazon Web Services, Amazon has the resources to go all out and wipe out lesser competitors. When it fails, as in the case of the Amazon Fire Phone, it takes those learnings and moves on.
Amazon’s latest product announcements aren’t just opening up a new content market and ecosystem, which they are anyway, they’re set to reinvent the smart home space with products we never knew we wanted.
Apple and Google may be comfortable with a slow, measured approach, but not Amazon. It’s simply preparing to walk away with the entire market.