This past week brought a slew of new Echo and other devices. Some of them were updates to the existing products (Echo, Echo Show, Dot, Plus), some were extenders (Fire TV Recast, Echo Sub, Ring Stick Up Cam), and some of them were new entrants (Echo Auto, Microwave, Smart Plug).
It seemed like the theme of this announcement was Amazon edging out other giants. There is a multi billion dollar war to capture user interactions in the car. You can direct people to businesses and as a result, charge those businesses for advertisements. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were attempts to get into the infotainment space, Amazon might try to leapfrog these competitors with its self contained mic.
It’ll be interesting to see how this device performs. First, car noise is not an easy issue to work around, especially where the placement of the mic can vary. Next, acoustic echo cancellation when audio is coming through third party speakers and being streamed via Bluetooth. In addition, that it uses the phone (Android or iPhone) for the processing means that if there’s any latency or connectivity issues, that could affect performance.
However, it is interesting that this is a completely screen free device. Maybe this will mean less driver distraction?
The device renders obsolete at least two previous Alexa-enabled products — the ZeroTouch by Logitech and the Speak by Garmin. That’s a risk faced by many device makers that make early bets on new interfaces for AVS (hint: Nucleus).
The microwave from AmazonBasics (a few weeks ago, I wrote about the potential for Alexa to be integrated into AmazonBasics devices) is interesting. It’s more of an Internet-connected microwave than a voice-enabled one. First, there are no integrated microphones. Second, it relies on a nearby Echo to be able to operate by voice.
The two interesting features are the button that starts a nearby to enter listening mode and that it has Amazon Dash Fulfillment built into it. The former is an interesting feature that we’ll likely see built into other devices. The latter… it seems more like an example that Amazon will be able to showcase for the service as we haven’t heard much about it over the past few months. How much popcorn does the average microwave owner consume that they get annoyed when they run out? Amazon would know the answer to this.
So with the truck-full of new Alexa products, what does this mean? One colleague said it might be a smokescreen — to get competitors to waste millions on R&D on products that Amazon will eventually abandon. Maybe this is a way to increase the Alexa endpoints to something more significant. I could see JB putting the goal to get to a billion Alexa endpoints by 2020.