Among Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) efforts to distribute its Alexa “virtual assistant” is its own Echo hardware. Amazon slashed the price of the Echo from $99.99 to $84.99, at least temporarily. Since the Echo has been selling well, according to industry experts, the decision is probably to grab share in a very competitive market.
Alexa can be described as a very low and basic version of artificial intelligence primarily aimed at people to use it around their homes, mostly to get answers to basic questions and power home electronics. Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google has a competing product called Google Home, powered by Google Assistant. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is rumored to be at work on hardware powered by Siri which is already a featured in iPhones. Industry research shows that Amazon has over 80% of the market. Google and Apple have not made a dent in that. They may have to discount their own products. And Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) will enter the market via its PC Cortena software shifted to a portable home device.
Amazon has reason to push Echo hard. The company sees the home market as a means to control access to movies, music, daily appliances, home electrics, and shopping via Amazon.com. That, in turn, gives it more access to the grocery sales market, beyond its Whole Foods purchase. However, there are consumer protection organizations and perhaps later, the federal government, which worry Alexa collects personal data which it could use to market everything from products to advertising. Advertising is an area, which is growing for Amazon which hopes to threaten the so-called duopoly of Google and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB).
Alexa powered devices are a way for Amazon to market it Prime streaming media and free shipping program, which already has over 100 million subscribers around the world. A Prime subscription is offered as part of the Echo promotion.
What does Echo do for $84.99? Amazon’s promotion:
Echo (2nd Gen) has a new speaker, new design, and is available in a range of styles including fabrics and wood veneers. Echo connects to Alexa to play music, make calls, set music alarms and timers, ask questions, control smart home devices, and more—instantly.
Just ask for a song, artist, or genre from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more. With multi-room music, you can play music on compatible Echo devices in different rooms. Echo can also play Audible audiobooks, radio stations, news briefs, and more.
Call or message almost anyone hands-free with your Echo device. Also, instantly connect to other Echo devices in your home using just your voice.
New speaker, now with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and dynamic bass response. Echo can fill the room with 360° omnidirectional audio.
With seven microphones, beamforming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo hears you from any direction—even while music is playing
Just ask Alexa to check your calendar, weather, traffic, and sports scores, manage to-do and shopping lists, control your compatible smart lights, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, and more
Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new features and skills. Just ask Alexa to control your TV, request an Uber, order a pizza, and more.
Soon, it may wash the dishes, too.