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Amazon Echo is Siri in a Can (Video)

Amazon might not be having much luck in selling an iPhone competitor but their Siri alternative is another matter. The retailer has just announced Amazon Echo, their entrant into the virtual assistant market.

Building on the work of two startups Amazon bought in November 2011 and in early 2013, the Amazon Echo picks up where the Dash personal shopping assistant leaves off. If offers many of the virtual assistant features offered by Siri, including answering questions, acting as an alarm clock, and more, and thanks to its non-mobile design the Echo can also double as the focal point for a sound system.

It’s just been announced today, so no one has heard it yet, but the website shows that the Echo combines a set of speakers with microphones, wifi, Bluetooth, and a computer to drive it all, and then packs it into a cylinder 3 inches wide and 9 inches tall:

amazon echo

There is also a remote, and Amazon is launching companion apps for Android and iOS.

All in all this is Amazon’s most novel product yet. The Verge would call it the most ambitious, but given what Amazon has launched over the past year I would see this as more of a logical next step.

Amazon already did streaming audio with the Fire tablets, voice recognition with the Fire TV and Amazon Dash, and TTS in the Kindles. In short Amazon took all of their previous work and then added the ability for the Echo to talk back to you.
I don’t mean to criticize Amazon, just to point out that much of what the Echo can do is established tech wrapped up in a cool new package. That is actually a good thing, because it means there are fewer bugs to be worked out by the early adopters.

The Echo is available today, but by invitation only. It costs $200 ($100 for Prime members). For those of us who aren’t chosen, here is the promo video Amazon posted:

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Timothy Wilhoit November 6, 2014 um 1:10 pm

Thanks for the info. Since you have to request an invitation to get the $99 price, time is of the essence. 😀

AvidReader November 6, 2014 um 3:17 pm

The invite only is a great idea for them giving an indication of interest and allowing them to ramp up or down production for it Price for Prime members is great and encourages new members even on a trial basis. I can see a lot of uses for it just from the video.

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TheGreatFilter November 7, 2014 um 7:30 am

I predict flop. Amazon are losing it. They need to re-focus on their core strategy and business.

fjtorres November 7, 2014 um 8:10 am

That is exactly what they’re doing.
Anything that boosts Prime Subscriptions, helps their core.
Anything that helps people order from Amazon, helps their core.
Any new lines of business they can create with their cash (instead of letting it sit unused at near-zero effective interest) helps their core.
Anything that brings in money and reduces their exposure on legacy products (CDs, DVDs, pbooks) helps their core.
There are 50million Prime subscribers out there: if 1% buys Echo they have a tidy little $50M launch. Plenty of SiliValley startups would kill for a new product launch like that.
And as pointed out above, it might get a few thousands to sign up for Prime.

Every little bit helps.

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