Last night, Amazon announced a refresh to their hardware line-up, rebranding the Echo with a smaller, less industrial look. Importantly, they also added new capabilities, including acting as a wireless hub for your smartphone devices. The hardware announced included:
- The newest device revealed was the Echo Spot, a small alarm clock that can make video calls (available later this year).
- Another addition is the Echo Connect, a bridging device that enables you to make landline calls from your Alexa devices.
- Alongside the new hardware, a partnership to put Alexa into new BMWs was also announced, in addition to an updated Fire TV.
- The Echo Show will also be made available in the UK.
TL:DR | What does the latest announcement mean?
- Voice is here to stay. This isn’t a novelty for Amazon: it’s a compelling strategic bet.
- Video interactions are limited to phone calls now, but may one day have implications for the way we interact with remote customer services - one and two-way video could be the future.
- What could your business do with more connected cameras inside someone’s home?
- Follow Amazon’s lead - when it comes to Voice, try it and see. It’s early days, and time to get experimenting.
Below, I unpack what this all means for Alexa, and potentially for businesses.
1 | Alexa: the operating system for the home
Alexa gained an early lead over smart assistant competitors by being in the one place you don't always have your phone on you - your home. However, the sheer range of devices, options and pricing bundles means there isn't just an Echo for everyone, but an Echo for everywhere. Bigger speakers for the living room, smaller ones for the kitchen; a Dot for your hallway, in every new car you buy - there soon won’t be a space that you can’t buy something from Amazon for. This is your Home OS.
2 | You used to call me on my cellphone...
In the quest to hoover up in-home use cases, Amazon is aggressively going after communication.
More cameras strengthen the video call proposition they launched with the Show (shown below); the Connect can now interface directly with your landline - if you still have one - and the Spot lets you beam video around the house or with friends.
Amazon also expanded the Alexa communication APIs, which means developers will be able to build Voice and messaging features on top of the Echo. These features make the idea of carrying your phone around in your home seem even less likely - which means, of course, you’ll likely use Alexa instead.
3 | The smart home hub, and building lasting habits
Multi-room audio, added back in August, and a much stronger smart home integration in the Plus (even down to bundling a bulb), start to build the beginnings of ecosystem lock-in for the Echo.
At the moment, more devices are additive - not multiplicative - and swapping out an Echo for a Home or a HomePod is as simple as remembering a new wake word. The more deeply integrated into your smart home, however, the Echo becomes the less likely you are to switch to one of their competitors.
That’s not just security for Amazon’s device business: it’s security for all their products and services you’re going to stick with as a result. Alexa also updated the Smart Home Skill API - check the details here.
4 | More cameras
The Spot follows the Show and the Look by putting more connected cameras into the home, in a more compact form factor and with a more accessible price point.
This further expands the range of use cases for conversational UX to things that have visual, as well as audio, components. It also gives them more connected camera devices that strengthen the potential for a range of smart home devices and integrations beyond the home security element of the Show.
At TAB, we’ve been experimenting with Alexa capabilities for over a year. To learn more about conversational UX and voice, get in touch.