Following the success of the original Echo device, Amazon has launched a number of new Alexa-powered products to get itself into more homes and beyond.
The company announced more than a dozen new voice-controlled products at its annual hardware event. Included is a competitor to Apple’s AirPods called the Echo Buds. The $129 earbuds have Alexa built into them and feature five hours of battery life, as well as noise cancellation technology from Bose.
The most notable new Echo was the $199 Echo Studio, which is bigger than previous models and features high-quality speakers that enable 3D sound, with help from Dolby Atmos. The device is similar conceptually to Apple’s HomePod, which focuses on audio quality.
A revamped $99 Echo comes with updated speakers and in a range of new colors, and a new Echo Show 8 video calling device offers a bigger 8-inch screen and more powerful audio.
Amazon has found a massive audience for its portfolio of Echos, giving the company a clear lead in the voice assistant space. But some investors and analysts are starting to question the financial strategy behind Alexa and whether there’s a profitable business model emerging for the devices and underlying technology.
“Amazon has successfully shipped millions of devices to millions of customers, but to what end?” said Andrew Murphy, managing partner at Loup Ventures, which invests in start-ups and publishes research on consumer technology.
After the last Christmas holiday season, Amazon said it had sold more than 100 million Alexa-powered gadgets, and a report soon after from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners showed Amazon with 70% control of the U.S. smart speaker market.
Unlike Apple, which commanded only 6% of the market at the time, Amazon isn’t aiming to make money off device sales but sees them as a means for getting customers into the Amazon universe, where presumably they’ll spend in other ways.