Amazon’s vision for the smart home is clear: get as many people to use Alexa-powered devices. On Thursday, it announced a number of new Alexa-powered devices, including redesigned Echo speakers, a new subwoofer and amplifier, a wall clock, and, yes, a microwave. The event, held at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, marked an aggressive move to become the de facto force in the home automation space.
Amazon’s strategy is pretty simple and straightforward. It wants to be in your microwave, your clock, your car, and even in your kitchen. This is all part of Amazon’s strategy to expand Alexa, the voice-enabled assistant that competes with Google Assistant and Apple Siri.
While the Echo speakers were expected to be the showstoppers, it was a microwave oven that drew everyone’s interest. Yes, the boring appliance which no one thought would get a makeover. The $59.99 microwave, which is called the AmazonBasics Microwave, may not seem like a great idea on paper, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Putting Alexa inside your microwave shows the kind of roles a digital assistant could play in our lives in the near future.
So why a microwave? Because it’s “the most popular appliance that’s out there today,” according to Amazon, but also “one of the hardest devices to integrate with.” Although the product doesn’t look too different from a regular microwave, what makes it different here is a built-in ‘Ask Alexa’ button.
Press it and say something like “One potato”, without saying “alexa” or “microwave”. Amazon says it also integrated the Dash service into the microwave, so if you run low on popcorn, for example, it’s easy to restock.
And then comes the $29.99 Echo Wall Clock. You got that right, it’s a wall clock. The intelligent clock connects your Echo via Bluetooth, and automatically syncs to the correct time. The goal here is to connect all types of devices in your house, tightly integrated with the internet which can be controlled easily with a voice.
Amazon also wants you to use Alexa in your car as well with the Echo Auto, a $50 device that will bring Alexa capabilities to cars. The Echo Auto is Amazon’s bet to turn your dumb car into a smart one, and this is a big move. Amazon has already been working with manufacturers to add Alexa into cars. For example, the Audi E-Tron electric car has Alexa built in. With the Echo Auto, it is rethinking how to bring Alexa to any car with a nifty accessory.
From the car to the kitchen, Amazon wants to make its voice-based digital assistant Alexa a bigger part of our daily lives. The world’s second most valuable company wants to create its own family of connected home appliances — all powered by Alexa. That strategy maybe working out, as it recently passed the 20,000 mark for Alexa-powered smart home devices made by Amazon or partners.
But at the end of the day Amazon’s goal is not only to sell its Alexa-based connected devices at aggressive prices. Instead, the emphasis could be to draw more customers towards the e-commerce platform.
Disclaimer: The author is in Seattle on the invitation of the Amazon India