Amazon expands its Alexa everywhere strategy, launches new Echo devices, Buttons, Connect, Plus

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Amazon rolled out a series of Alexa-powered devices that essentially ups the ante for Google throughout the smart home and advances its Alexa everywhere strategy that emerged early in 2017.

Whether Google Assistant is smarter than Alexa is almost a moot point. This digital assistant game is about distribution and points of presence. And so far, Amazon has Google and Apple’s Siri surrounded.

CNET


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In Seattle, Amazon launched a smaller, cloth-covered Amazon Echo that has better voice recognition, six shells available and a smaller footprint. Preorders start at $99.99. There’s also the Echo Connect, which can make phone calls and rides shotgun with the Echo. And Alexa will be embedded into BMW cars in 2018.

Amazon also outlined Buttons, which are just like they sound. Amazon Buttons with Alexa have the ability to play games.

For good measure, Amazon launched a new Fire TV. After all, you can’t control the smart home without the living room. Amazon–as if it couldn’t get enough of the Echo barrage–also announced the Echo Spot, which is an alarm clock device with a 2.5-inch screen that can show video feeds. What’s next? Alexa in key fobs?

Not surprisingly, Amazon’s powwow and the devices that come with it are about Alexa, e-commerce and Amazon touch points such as Prime. For good measure, Amazon has an Alexa Gadgets software development kit (SDK). Amazon said Alexa will get the ability to cluster areas of the smart home and run routines like turning on the lights, open shades and start a news briefing.

These Alexa routines will presumably be run through the Echo Plus, which serves as a smart home integration hub starting at $149.

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Last week, Amazon launched a 10-inch Fire HD tablet with Alexa. Now Amazon is playing up the kitchen and, increasingly, your car. The BMW-Amazon deal for Alexa is notable given Apple and Android already have spots on your dashboard.

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Add it up and Amazon is building an entire Alexa-enabled stack of devices that cover almost all areas of the home. On the back end, Alexa devices will connect to Amazon Web Services on multiple fronts. Given that developers follow the money and reach, Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem is only going to get stronger. Alexa everywhere is one fine moneymaking mantra for Amazon.

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Richard Windsor, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, wrote in a recent research note:

Amazon is aggressively compensating for the lack of Alexa on smartphones by effectively giving the devices away and pushing e-commerce as hard as it can. A land grab strategy makes complete sense because the more Amazon can drive Alexa usage, the more data it will generate and the better it can become. Usage is the key to making all digital assistants better and this is the one area where Amazon has huge ground to make up compared to Google.

The fact that Google is still really struggling in the smart home, is why Amazon still has the upper hand which it is showing no sign of losing. This move is clearly aimed at seeding as much of the market as possible before Google can get its act together.

Google may get its act together and its recent deal with HTC highlights how it is serious about hardware. Google will need more than a smartphone footprint to put its Assistant everywhere. Ditto for Apple. Ironically, Amazon has played the hardware game well, forged omnichannel deals, and tethered its e-commerce hooks and Prime subscriptions to Alexa.

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