Ama­zon turns up the vol­ume on ri­vals with Echo price cut

Ripon Bulletin - - Sports/dollars & Sense -

SEAT­TLE (AP) — Ama­zon will head into the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son with a sim­ple wish list: It wants voice-con­trolled de­vices fea­tur­ing its dig­i­tal as­sis­tant Alexa to be­come as ubiq­ui­tous in peo­ple’s homes as tele­vi­sions.

The on­line re­tailer is slash­ing prices to un­der­cut Google, in­tro­duc­ing bet­ter acous­tics in re­sponse to a forth­com­ing Ap­ple speaker and rolling out new for­mats to ap­peal to dif­fer­ent tastes and needs.

“We want to make sure we are build­ing a prod­uct that ev­ery­one can use,” said David Limp, Ama­zon’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of de­vices and ser­vices, dur­ing a Wed­nes­day event show­cas­ing the com­pany’s hol­i­day prod­uct line-up at its Seat­tle head­quar­ters.

Ama­zon so far has proven far bet­ter at dis­count­ing a pot­pourri of goods on­line than it has been at mak­ing its own de­vices. Most no­tably, it tanked in its at­tempt to make a smart­phone, putting it at a dis­ad­van­tage against Google and Ap­ple — the mak­ers of An­droid and the iPhone, re­spec­tively — in the bat­tle to stay con­nected with con­sumers when they’re on the go.

A HOME-STYLE AP­PROACH But Ama­zon has found a way to play a big­ger role in peo­ple’s homes with the Echo, an in­ter­net-con­nected speaker star­ring Alexa as a concierge who can do ev­ery­thing from or­der a pizza to turn out the lights on com­mand.

Ama­zon won’t say how many Echos it has sold since the de­vice’s 2014 de­but. Limp would only say “tens of mil­lions” of de­vices cur­rently in­clude Alexa and that Ama­zon now em­ploys more than 5,000 peo­ple try­ing to make the as­sis­tant even smarter.

The Echo’s pop­u­lar­ity prod­ded Google to in­tro­duce its own in­ter­net-con­nected speaker, Home, with a dig­i­tal as­sis­tant last year. Ap­ple is sched­uled to roll out its own speaker, the Home Pod, in De­cem­ber.

Google has been po­si­tion­ing its speaker as a less ex­pen­sive al­ter­na­tive with a smarter as­sis­tant. Ama­zon now aims to erase the price ad­van­tage with the next gen­er­a­tion of the Echo. The new ver­sion will sell for $100, a 44 per­cent re­duc­tion from the $180 price for the cur­rent ver­sion.

Google’s Home speaker cur­rently sells for $130, but that price could be low­ered next week when the com­pany is ex­pected to unveil its own hol­i­day line-up in San Fran­cisco.

GO­ING UP­SCALE Ama­zon is also adding higher fidelity equip­ment to the next-gen­er­a­tion Echo in an ap­par­ent re­sponse to the Home Pod. Ap­ple is pro­mot­ing its speaker pri­mar­ily as a su­pe­rior sound sys­tem for mu­sic, although it will also fea­ture Ap­ple’s dig­i­tal as­sis­tant, Siri. The Home Pod, though, will cost three times more than the next-gen­er­a­tion Echo at al­most $350.

For those that want even bet­ter sound and more fea­tures for con­trol­ling in­ter­net-con­nected light­ing and ap­pli­ance in­side the home, Ama­zon also is in­tro­duc­ing the Echo Plus, a slightly taller speaker that will sell for $150.

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