Yesterday, Amazon unveiled a selection of nifty new Alexa powered speaker products, along with an assistant powered Fire TV 4K dongle and even an alarm clock. Amazon also pushed the price down on its flagship Echo product, making it more temping than ever to let Amazon get its virtual assistant hooks into your home.
Alongside the new hardware announcements, Amazon also announced a partnership with BMW. The arrangement will see Alexa installed in new BMWs and Minis launching through mid-2018, offering drivers voice commands for the news or weather while on their daily commute, as well as access to third party apps. BMW and Ford have previously worked with Amazon on a selection of Alexa Skills that allow drivers to check their remaining fuel, among other things, from the Echo in their living room.
Despite already shipping Alexa on a couple of high profile smartphone launches, Amazon is increasingly looking like it doesn’t need a major presence in handsets to fulfil its goal of making Alexa the center of our connected world.
Preempting the next big thing
Amazon was never a contender in the smartphone race, and the rapid rise and fall of the tablet market has left the company with a comparatively small market for its hardware. Although the company’s Fire and Kindle products have been quite well received, they’re not shipping on anywhere near the scale of big smartphone manufacturers. This has left Amazon with a bit of a predicament when it comes to rolling out Alexa – how to get it in consumer hands? The first stage of the play has been low-cost Bluetooth speakers, and now we’re seeing more and more manufacturers in different technology segments being brought on-board.
While Google, Apple, Samsung, and others are viewing voice assistants as a natural progression of the personal computer in everyone’s pocket, Amazon is taking a different, more ambitious approach – making Alexa your assistant for everything.
Google and others are pushing voice assistants primarily on smartphones, while Amazon is looking to make Alexa your assistant for everything.
Amazon’s latest batch of announcements confirms this approach. The company’s virtual assistant is now part of the TV experience with the Fire TV 4K. Amazon is even encouraging customers to have an assistant in every bedroom with the $130 Echo Spot alarm clock. Each of these is designed to fit Alexa into another every day part of our lives, from waking up in the morning to relaxing in the evening.
Furthermore, Amazon’s eagerness to do deals with hundreds of other major brands demonstrates that this isn’t just about boosting the company’s hardware sales. It’s important to Amazon’s end goal that Alexa and its other services become embedded into as many products as possible, as this is how the company will generate long-term revenue. In this regard, Apple and Google are miles behind, and Samsung is barely out of the starting blocks with Bixby.
On the automotive front, Alexa in upcoming BMW and Ford vehicles is a game changer. While this of course means more competition for Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay, Amazon is also betting big on consumers preferring the convenience of a unified platform. Why hop between various platforms and systems when Amazon can cater for everything with one assistant. With Alexa, customers will be able to bring their music, search queries, and other elements of their daily routine seamlessly from one device to another. Amazon doesn’t need to be in phones if it’s in everything else.
The end game
While it’s still just the beginning of the smart assistant arms race, Amazon’s end goal is quickly coming into focus. The company is quickly positioning Alexa as an assistant for your entire connected life. Not just one that sits in your pocket to be called up, but one that is within easy listening distance across not just your home, but your car too.
Amazon is aiming to build a connected future untethered from today's smartphones. Afterall, the company doesn't need to be in phones if it's in everything else.
Take this not unrealistic example. You wake up in the morning and ask your Echo Spot for the news and the fastest route to work. Hop in your car and your route to work is already programmed and ready to go, while Alexa finishes off summing up the morning’s headlines.
On your way home, the system can remind you to pickup those groceries you forgot the other day (or order them via Amazon for you), and you can even ask your car to have that new Amazon show your colleagues were talking about downloaded and ready to watch on your Fire TV before your key is even in the front door. Spooky maybe, but highly convenient.
Amazon is aiming to build a connected future untethered from today’s smartphones. That’s a very different approach to the other big players in the voice assistant space. Whether or not this strategy will win out without a meaningful presence in the massive smartphone market remains to be seen. But if Amazon can continue to build up a huge ecosystem, phone manufacturers may end up flocking to Alexa anyway.
The competition is already heating up, just look at how Google recently blocked YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show. Perhaps Amazon’s approach is starting to rattle Google?