The Amazon Echo is ready for prime time.
After seven months of keeping its new voice-activated speaker as an invitation-only product, Amazon on Tuesday opened orders of the device to anyone interested. The Echo starts shipping out to all customers July 14 for $180, replacing the previous pricing of $199 for regular customers and $149 for Amazon Prime members.
“We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and experiences,” Greg Hart, vice president for Amazon’s Echo, said in a statement.
The Echo brought the e-commerce giant into the competitive market of voice assistants. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now speech-recognition software all work in smartphones to allow users to make calls or bring up driving directions. The big difference is that Amazon’s Alexa software, which powers the Echo, isn’t used in a phone (at least not yet) and instead is in a plug-in speaker that stays at home.
That allows the Echo to act as a more dedicated hub for the connected home, able to turn on a lamp using a Belkin WeMo light switch, play Pandora or iHeartRadio music, or reorder kitchen supplies on Amazon.com by simply asking the device. The device can remain on at all times, with users able to activate Alexa by simply saying her name and then asking her to complete a task.
Some of the Echo’s features can be replicated via a smartphone, so time will tell whether consumers will want to pay for a separate device made specifically for the home.
Then again, it will be hard to tell what the demand turns out to be for the Echo, since Amazon usually doesn’t reveal sales figures for specific products.
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SOURCE: Cnet, Ben Fox Rubin