Amazon unveiled Wednesday a range of devices aimed at cementing its lead in the business of intelligent home speakers.
Amazon wants Alexa to be everywhere.
The company unleashed a barrage of new hardware on Wednesday, from refreshed Echo speakers and Fire-branded streaming device and the new, alarm-clock-like Echo Spot.
The new devices represents an acceleration of the Seattle company’s push into building its own hardware, three years after the surprise release of the original Amazon Echo. The cylindrical tower, controlled by Amazon’s Alexa voice-activated software, was a surprise hit, spawning a range of lookalikes built by rivals such as Google and Apple.
Since then, Amazon has released refined devices and accessories, but made no major facelift to the flagship Echo.
The company changed that on Wednesday, hosting a press event at its Seattle headquarters to reveal a new portfolio aimed at extending its early lead in the category of electronics it helped to invent.
In a space built to look like part-living room, part kitchen, Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, pulled one device after another from underneath a counter over the course of an hour-long press conference.
First was the new Echo, shorter than its predecessor and bearing a refined speaker and microphone.
In typical Amazonian fashion, the company also shrank the price: the new Echo will sell for $100 in the U.S. (The original sold for $200 at launch).
Voice-activated computing, Limp said, “is going to be ubiquitous.” Future generations, he said, will be unfamiliar with a world in which people can’t tap into computers by using their voice.
That option already exists in many households. While Amazon hasn’t disclosed sales figures – saying only that tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices are in consumers’ hands – Alexa and the Echo are widely seen as the most popular voice activated home technology, eclipsing competing efforts from Google, Apple, Microsoft and others. Amazon currently has more than 5,000 people working on Alexa-related projects, Limp said.
Amazon’s new lineup is a test of what people want to do next with voice-activated software, said Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at technology research firm Creative Strategies. “At the start it was easy: There was a speaker, it played music and had Alexa. Now Amazon is trying to do different things.”
While Alexa’s core uses are…