Amazon’s Echo – The Ultimate New Technology Gadget
Amazon’s Echo has landed. Looking like a cross between the Monolith in the film 2001 and a plain audio speaker, the Echo is Amazon’s big bet for new consumer electronics based on the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ultimate in new technology gadgets.
Available from Amazon online, for $179, it’s one of the few Amazon products sold through prominent coast-to-coast retail outlets. And the Echo also has a multi-media advertising campaign just in time for holiday shopping.
Amazon has many bets in the evolving consumer electronics marketplace, including a $49 tablet, the $99 Fire TV and the $200 Kindle. Success eluded Amazon with the now-defunct Fire Phone. How much the Echo can help Amazon has yet to be seen.
The Internet of Things
Forbes defines IoT as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”
The cloud-based, wi-fi Echo is one of many new consumer electronics based on IoT. For businesses, IoT enables jet engine production and logistics, among many other processes.
What Does the Echo Do?
Forbes technology columnist Michael Wolf wrote that “Amazon has created something new and different, something we really haven’t seen before.”
This means that Echo sits alone in the IoT consumer marketspace.
The Echo is always “on” – always listening, using its Alexa intelligent interface. Alexa is Amazon’s Siri. The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and is enabled with far-field voice recognition.
Placed on a table or bookshelf, commands are given to the device by saying “Alexa” before a request.
From organizing your smart home, helping with homework, finding the latest movie time, giving directions, offering the best shrimp scampi recipe, playing music, or setting alarms, the Echo is a new knowledge device and it teases at making Google searches obsolete. But not quite yet.
Echo also ties into Amazon services through your Prime membership, including grocery shopping, Pandora, and general shopping and re-ordering. The Echo should boost Amazon’s bottom-line significantly over time as it coordinates with their other services. And it also makes life easier.
Echo Customer Reviews
Amazon lives by the sword and so dies by it as well, publishing Customer Reviews of the Echo, just as it does for any other product. Although we can expect more reviews than the pre-holiday 28,000, 65% gave the Echo five stars, which means 35% were less than perfectly happy.
The jury is still out on the Echo, but the Reviews give us much to think about and anticipate:
- Homebound and elderly users make use of the Echo for contact, communication, and services in a hands-free environment, not needing any computer knowledge
- Most plaudits are for the music and radio functions
- Complaints seem to be about voice recognition and the weak Bing search results
- Smart home functions appear to be well controlled
What happens with the Internet connection goes down? Or wi-fi doesn’t work? Now, with the Echo, it’s going to be much more painful than simply losing access to email or Facebook or your local newspaper. When the Internet goes down, your entire house may come to a stand-still for days, if not longer.
Amazon’s Development Path
As they did with the acquisition of Washington Post newspaper, there are many new hires for the Echo. Also, Amazon has unbundled Alexa and established a $100 million Alexa fund to make use of this technology for other purposes. Mass market may be just around the corner.
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