Amazon announced its latest effort to break into the gadget market with Echo, an interactive speaker that lets people use the power of the Web with just their voice.
Echo was quietly unveiled on Amazon’s website last Friday (Nov. 6). While the retailer touts its new product as a device to stream music, search the Internet and organize schedules, Amazon said little about Echo’s true purpose: get users to shop more on Amazon.com.
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey, cited by Bloomberg, says Echo allows Amazon to “place microphones in the home where you will think of things you want to buy – the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room – things which Amazon can then easily fulfill.”
Echo users need merely to stand in a room, initiate the device by saying its wake word, “Alexa,” and say a variety of commands: “Add gelato to my shopping list,” for example. The Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled gadget automatically updates itself through the cloud, Amazon says, and pairs with the free Amazon Echo App to manage the commands given to Echo when users are away from home.
The product also picks up speech patterns, personal preferences and more user-specific traits to become more functional over time for each individual user, especially as a personalized online shopping device.
Echo is Amazon’s latest attempt to expand from the digital world and launch a successful gadget. Just last week the company launched the Fire TV Stick, a device that plugs into a television set to allow users to browse video and music from online streaming services like Netflix.
But whether Echo will be a hit with consumers is unclear; Amazon endured several product flops recently, including the Fire Phone, the retailer’s failed effort to crack into the smartphone competition. Those flops led to an embarrassing third-quarter report last month, which revealed Amazon’s operating loss of $544 million.
By offering Echo to Amazon Prime users for just $99, $100 less than the sticker price for the general public, McQuivey says Amazon could gradually win over consumers.