For Amazon, hardware has always been a means to an end. From the Kindle e-reader to the Fire tablets to its TV offerings, the company has always treated the space as something of a loss leader even with its most popular offerings. Amazon has determined success in pricing devices much closer to cost than the competition something a company can only really get away with if it plans to make up for things somewhere down the road, like, say if youre in the content selling business.
The Echo line is no different, of course. The aim of the hardware hub is simple: to seed living rooms with its smart assistant and become an essential part of the connected home. The desktop-mounted devices were a first step toward getting Alexa into the world, and while the company has made it clear it isnt done with the Echo line( as evidenced by the recent launch of the Look ), its ready to let other companies do the heavy lifting.
The actual success of the Echo line took most( likely Amazon included) by surprise. The company never likes to give out exact numbers when it is necessary to hardware, but by all accounts, the products have been a massive success. Over the holidays, it noted that it had sold 9x as many Echo devices as it had the previous year, only saying that the number was in the millions .
But the next phase in Amazons master plan has been rolling out for the past year-and-a-half, as the company has not only embraced third-party hardware makers its actively engaged them. Last week, Amazon joined component company Conexant to announce the release of the AudioSmart Development Kit for Alexa Voice Service a second devkit is targeted at streamlining the process of bringing Alexa voice functionality to their devices.
The day prior, smart appliance manufacturer Ecobee announced that the Amazons smart home assistant would be a part of its products in a big route, moving forward. It would start with a new version of the companys connected thermostat built utilizing an earlier version of the Conexant dev kit. Afterward in the year, it will be bringing the functionality to connected light switches, with the semi-ominous aim of weaving the power of voice into the walls of entire households.
The thermostat marked something of a deviation from many Alexa-enabled devices before it, in that it wasnt simply the addition of an Alexa skill to an existing product. Nor was it a desk-mounted device designed to compete immediately with the Echo line. Only a few of its voice-enabled functions actually pertain to thermostat features. The other 12,000 or so essentially make the product an Echo surrogate, mutely waiting for its aftermath word.
Its proof of concept for the company that Alexa is just as good outside the Echo. More to the point, its the tip-off of a growing trend in which third-party producers help spread the Alexa gospel. Its no coincidence, of course, that Ecobee was a $35 million recipient of Amazons Alexa Fund, a VC campaign that believe[ s] experiences designed around the human voice will basically improve the way people use technology. And, you know, promoting the companys own titular assistant a little bit along the way doesnt hurt, either, right?
Amazon merrily flings out a number from RBC that puts Alexa on 128 million devices by the end of 2020( with roughly half that number sold that year ). It seems like a stretch at the current rate, but adoption certainly does appearto be snowballing a particularly impressive feat given that the fact that unlike Siri and Google Assistant, the product didnt have smartphones as a jumping off point.
Though, in recent months, the assistants success has been large enough in Northern america that a handful of smartphone markers have shunned Googles offering in favor of Amazon, which is no doubt something of a sweet revenge for a company that failed so publicly in its own attempt to launching a smart home offering.
But while Echoes will likely continue to see for some time, thanks in part to regular freshens of the line, Amazon is working on its own schemed obsolescence. The more the functionality is baked into third-party products, the less need users will have for their own standalone Echo devices. And thats perfectly fine for Amazon.
The Echo line has done its undertaking better than Amazon could have imagined, putting the company well ahead of Apple and Google with regards to penetrating the smart home. For millions of users, the Echo will be their first dip in the water of the connected home. They purchased an Echo because of the neat tricks they say on TV or the recommendation of a friend. The fact that it can control the high tech smart lights they had their eye on is merely a bonus.
Amazon has done the hard work of getting Alexa out into the world. The next couple of years, the burden of follow through will be on the many hardware partners looking to the cash in on Alexas success. And on Apple and Google, who have a lot of catching up to do.
Curated from: https :// techcrunch.com
Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com