By Victor Ochieng
When Amazon launched Echo in 2014, many referred to it as “weird.” People were asking what Echo, a speaker connected to the internet that listens and talks, would actually do.
Selling for $179, the device’s launch came at a time when Amazon’s hardware products were already inconsistent, with some of them flopping even before they hit the market. The company had, however, had some notable success with the Kindle, and the Fire TV was promising in the market.
Amazon has been busy working to improve Echo. Last spring, the company introduced SDK for Alexa, a female voice that acts as a personal assistant. The SDK allows app developers to integrate their products with Echo. This was a good move as it attracted more people to using the speaker.
Slowly, some big names began to appreciate Echo. Now, Echo, more so Alexa, has fully developed, and big tech companies like Apple and Google have been taking notice.
Pizza chain Domino’s announced Wednesday its plans to make it possible for users to place their orders using Echo. The company is also planning to integrate it with its pizza-tracker. A customer can ask Echo to retrieve a stored “Easy Order” or the customer’s most recent order.
Just to show how big this is, Spotify also made an announcement that it’s integrating its app to Echo. With the company already boasting of more than 20 million users, Echo is getting bigger. Spotify is a very popular music app and is a direct competitor to Amazon’s streaming service, Prime Music. It has been clear that Amazon put more emphasis on the device than its Prime, arguably because Echo is a big plan for its future.
Another notable partnership announced this week is with Uber, which is a clear indication of just how fast Echo is penetrating the market.
“Domino’s and Uber provide services to the home that Echo can direct from inside the home,” says James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester research. “This shows that Amazon understands both the power of what it is offering—a persistent personal assistant that’s just a voice command away—and the urgency of what it’s doing as other major competitors are rapidly increasing the reach of their voice agents as well.”
It’s because of its value that Echo ranks among the top selling consumer electronics, only coming behind Fire devices that sell at under $50.
“Everyone else can put [a voice assistant] on the phone, which is also powerful, but Amazon’s services are more home-related, and so Amazon’s Alexa is the most likely agent to help you buy things on Amazon,” explains McQuivey. “But to get you to use it often, Amazon has always known that it would need to get you to use it frequently for other things that are related to your home.”
Although companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple already have their voice assistants, they’re tied to smartphones. Instead of Amazon following the trend, the company decided to make it possible to interact with the speaker directly. You no longer have to ask your phone to tell the speaker to do something – simply tell the speaker.