How Amazon Plans to Clobber Google Home and Apple HomePod With Its New and Cheaper Echo Lineup
Working to maintain its lead in the early stages of the market for home digital assistants, Amazon rolled a bevy of new and updated products on Wednesday, including an improved version of its Echo speaker and Fire TV set-top box.
At a press event in Seattle, Amazon said a new version of the Echo would have improved audio output and a softer look resembling competing speakers from Google (GOOGL) and Apple. And Amazon cut the price of the device, which responds to voice commands via the company’s Alexa digital assistant, to $100 from $180.
The price cut and improving feature set should help Amazon ward off the competition. Google’s Google Home speaker costs $130, though Apple’s upcoming smart speaker, HomePod, has not even hit the market yet. Analyst Ben Wood at CCS Insight said on Twitter that there was “no question that Amazon is making clear effort to consolidate its lead with Alexa as rivals attack market.”
Amazon also added a premium version of its Echo device priced at $150 that can act as the central controller for home automation gear like connected light bulbs and window blinds. The Echo Plus will come with one free Philips Hue smart lightbulb. Both it and the cheaper, new Echo will be available for pre-order starting on Wednesday and start shipping next month.
A new $70 version of Amazon’s Fire TV set top box will include 4K video compatibility as well as an improved color standard known as high dynamic range or HDR. Users can issue voice commands to the device via Alexa, matching a feature of Apple’s (AAPL) Siri-enabled Apple TV remote. Amazon said it would sell the new box bundled with one of its Echo Dot devices for just $80, $100 less than the starting price of the new Apple TV 4K model. The prior Fire TV sold for $90 by itself.
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Amazon (AMZN) also introduced some new products. One, dubbed the Spot, is a $130 Echo-like device that respond to voice commands and has a round 2.5-inch display that looks like a clock. Another, called Echo Buttons, is just a light-up button connected to the Echo that can be used to play games. And the new $35 Amazon Connect speaker phone will be able to make free phones calls while connected to an ordinary phone jack.
Finally, BMW said it would be integrating the Alexa voice-controlled platform into all BMW and Mini models starting in mid-2018.