Amazon launching 8 new Alexa smart home devices before Christmas

Amazon launching 8 new Alexa smart home devices before Christmas

Amazon is planning to launch a number of new Alexa-powered devices in time for Christmas.

The smart home devices are thought to include a microwave oven, an amplifier, a receiver, a subwoofer speaker, and an “in car gadget” – according to a report this morning on CNBC, which suggests that at least eight launches featuring the digital assistant are on the cards.

The products will extend Alexa’s abilities deeper into the smart home, and – being Amazon offerings – are likely to feature a strong retail and customer loyalty angle.

The company is rumoured to be launching the new lines at an event later this month.

The products could open up a future in which digital assistants become ubiquitous in the home, car, and office, shifting the prime computing interface to voice more quickly than some might have imagined.

“We want customers to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in July. “There are now tens of thousands of developers across more than 150 countries building new devices using the Alexa Voice Service, and the number of Alexa-enabled devices has more than tripled in the past year.”

Editor’s note: Read our report on the subsequent Amazon launches here.

Internet of Business says

It has been a milestone year for Amazon, which became the world’s second trillion-dollar enterprise just weeks after Apple crashed through the market capitalisation barrier in the summer.

In July, the retail behemoth and connected technology giant reported record Q2 profits of $2.5 billion and 39 percent year-on-year revenue growth. Amazon only topped $1 billion quarterly net income at the end of 2017, so those results represented a major achievement.

It has also been a significant year for Alexa. In August, Amazon announced a partnership with Microsoft to bring the Alexa and Cortana assistants together, so each can now access features of the other’s technology.

Combining Amazon’s retail-focused system with Microsoft’s enterprise cloud applications means that Cortana users can now order products off Amazon or manage existing orders using voice instructions. Meanwhile, someone with an Alexa-powered device can set up new calendar events and respond to emails with Cortana’s help, said the companies.

The partnership is designed to combat the growing power of Google in digital assistant technology and natural-language/conversational AI.

Amazon is also working on an Alexa-powered smart television set and an expanded TV service, with an eye on providers such as Netflix and the BBC’s iPlayer.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that US upgrades of Alexa would allow more natural conversations with its smart devices, without constant use of the ‘Alexa’ trigger word. It also debuted its Alexa-powered smart camera, the Echo Look, which connects fashion-conscious consumers with human style-advisors.

In recent months, Amazon has further diversified into deliveries, content creation, premium subscription services, frictionless high street shopping, and more, and is eyeing banking and insurance. In May, for example, Internet of Business reported that Amazon is building a healthcare team within its Alexa division.

Also on the roadmap are Amazon’s long-rumoured, Alexa-powered ‘Vesta’ robots, which are thought to include onboard cameras and sensors that can detect smoke, carbon monoxide, excess heat, and noises. The robots could mix communications and entertainment with home security devices – a market Amazon is already in, thanks to its $1 billion acquisition of Ring.

It seems inevitable that such robots would also link to Amazon content, retail, and other connected services. Concept models are thought to be being tested in employees’ homes this year, for potential release in 2019.

However, as Internet of Business reported earlier this year, a concern for market watchdogs may be the ease with which each Alexa-powered hardware release deepens the hold that Amazon has over retail and other sectors.

Any hardware device that blends dedicated skills with retail and loyalty programmes may effectively shut out competition, forcing companies to engage with Alexa and compete for ‘visibility’ on the device.

For example, any smart cooker or fridge that orders food and drink would beg the question of which supplier is being chosen and why, with many of the commercial relationships behind the scenes hidden from consumers.

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is former editor of Internet of Business, and now a key contributor to the title. He specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is also former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, IoT investment, digital marketing, blockchain, and space technologies, and has spoken at numerous other events.