Amazon unveils flurry of new hardware, BMW deal
- At a company event at its Seattle headquarters yesterday, Amazon unveiled a slew of new Echo devices — including an Echo Spot alarm clock — along with a low-priced Fire TV and a deal with BMW that will put Alexa in BMW and select Mini vehicles starting next year, according to The Verge.
- The $130 Echo Spot, launching Dec. 19, can make video calls and be connected to external speakers. It's positioned as a crossover between the Echo Dot and Echo Show with its 2.5-inch screen. Amazon yesterday also showed off the Echo Plus — which will act as a smart home hub with an extended wireless range and far-field voice recognition — and cheaper and smaller iterations of the hardware including The Echo Connect, which allows for landline calls with Alexa. Echo Buttons, another new addition to the line, will cost $20 for a two-pack and allow users to play games alongside an Alexa-powered device.
For the first time, Amazon is also selling Echos in three packs for $250, and even offering them in new finishes like cloth and wood for décor-minded users, The Verge said.
Amazon is a leader in the smart speaker and connected device markets, but is also facing growing competition from other tech firms like Google, Apple and — if reports are to be believed — Facebook. Google just last week announced it was bringing on 2,000 engineers and technical staff from HTC in a $1.1 billion deal. The Alphabet-owned company intends to use this talent to accelerate its own hardware ambitions, which are centered on devices like its Pixel smartphone and also Google Home.
With the event yesterday, Amazon looks to be focusing on variety and lower price points to keep users attracted and engaged in its ecosystem of products and software. By creating an Echo device suited to any situation — an alarm clock is a novel idea, embedded in the daily habit of waking up — and making those devices accessible at almost any budget, Amazon might be able to crowd out the market. Of course, as Amazon builds out its role not just as an e-commerce giant but also a major advertising player, all of these elements will continue to provide it a wealth of first-party data on its audience.
Stemming from that, the BMW deal is also significant for Amazon in getting more consumers to engage with its AI-powered digital assistant Alexa. The bot is already embedded in certain Ford vehicles, and expanding it to BMW's fleet will ensure it learns faster and can provide deeper insights into customer habits. It's another sign of how automotive brands are converging more with digital technology, which opens new windows of opportunity for marketers. However, marketers will need to invest more time and resources into audio- and voice-driven search, along with value-added interfaces and relevant ads, to maximize this emerging channel.
Follow Peter Adams on Twitter