Amazon Extends Alexa’s Reach Into Wearables
Amazon Extends Alexa’s Reach Into Wearables
Tech giant unveils more than a dozen new products including wireless earbuds, high-end smart speaker and indoor home camera at Seattle press event
By Sebastian Herrera Updated Sept. 25, 2019 9:08 pm ET
SEATTLE— Amazon.com Inc. is bringing its Alexa virtual assistant to products ranging from earbuds to finger rings, as the e-commerce giant looks to expand the reach of its technology into users’ everyday lives.
The company unveiled at a press event Wednesday more than a dozen new devices, such as a high-end speaker, a multifunction oven that can double as a microwave and air fryer, and motion sensor, with the virtual assistant built into them.
In the backdrop of Amazon’s Spheres building, Amazon devices executive Dave Limp showed off the company’s new earbuds. Named Echo Buds and costing $129, the Amazon product is undercutting rivals such as Apple Inc., which has controlled the market with its AirPods, which cost $159. Apple’s AirPods have 53% of the global earbud market share, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple is expected to sell 40 million AirPods in its current fiscal year, according to UBS. Amazon said Echo Buds users will have to have their phone on them to use Alexa.
Amazon also introduced Echo Frames, eyeglasses that the company said will feature microphones and speakers to communicate with Alexa. In addition, Amazon is also launching an Alexa-enabled ring named Echo Loop. Both products are only available through invite-only.
“Amazon’s failure has been around mobile, and this is a chance for them to fix it,” analyst Gene Munster from Loup Ventures said. He said Amazon’s price for its earbuds, although lower than Apple’s, proves that voice-controlled earphones are difficult to make.
Amazon has sought to put Alexa further into people’s lives since it introduced the home-focused Echo device in 2014. Loup Ventures in June estimated Amazon would sell 42 million Echo devices this year, commanding 58% of the smart-speaker market. Amazon doesn’t break out revenue it generates from device sales in earnings reports.
Last year, the company began offering an Alexa-enabled computer chip that could be inserted into microwaves, coffee machines and other products. Amazon has also signed up Toyota, Lexus and other car makers to feature Alexa in their new vehicles. Alexa is featured in products such as iHome mirrors and monitoring systems made by security company SimpliSafe.
Many of the products were on display Wednesday, with a line of Alexa-enabled vehicles parked outside of Amazon’s headquarters and a mock home inside displaying Amazon’s newest offerings.
While Amazon has been the leader in home virtual assistants, it is quickly losing ground. Loup Ventures predicted that sales of Google’s Nest device will surpass Amazon’s Echo by 2021.
Amazon wants customers to be able to experience Alexa whether they are inside or outside the home, instead of having to turn to competitors’ offerings like Google or Apple’s Siri, said Miriam Daniel, vice president of Alexa and Echo devices.
“We envision a world where Alexa will be ambient,” she said. “We believe in not having broken experiences.”
Amazon’s new Studio smart-speaker would go head-to-head with the Google Home Max, the Apple HomePod and Sonos One, and Amazon said its latest offering would carry a competitive price tag of $199.99, a discount to offerings from Apple and Google. The Sonos device currently can be used with Alexa or Google’s voice assistant. Additionally, Amazon unveiled a wireless network named Sidewalk that it said will help extend the reach of its home products. The network, which Amazon said will use the 900 megahertz spectrum that can reach a range of 1 mile, will connect products in the company’s Ring security network but also help new ones operate. One device due to be released next year, Ring Fetch, will connect to a dog’s collar in order for customers to track their pet.
The company also showed refreshed versions of its products currently on the market. The new Echo Dot will feature a digital clock on the face and Echo Show 8 has a camera shutter and 8-inch display. It also plans a new eero home Wi-Fi system after buying the device maker earlier this year,
Actor and producer Samuel L. Jackson has also signed on to be a voice for Alexa, and Amazon, which is working to line up other celebrities, says customers can interact with explicit and nonexplicit versions of his voice.
The event comes one day after Amazon said it was working with more than 30 companies to allow multiple digital assistants to be used from one device. The group, which includes Microsoft Corp. , Salesforce.com Inc., Intel Corp. , Qualcomm Inc., and Bose Corp., said it wants to provide customers flexibility through multiple, interoperable voice services.
Absent from the group are Apple, Samsung Electronics Co. , and Alphabet Inc. ’s Google, which prominently feature virtual assistants through their smartphones.
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