Amazon announced that its voice-assistant product, Echo, which was launched in November last year and was available by invitation only will be available to everyone beginning July 14. It will cost $180, replacing the previous price of $149 for Amazon Prime members and $199 for regular customers.
“We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and experiences,” Greg Hart, vice president for Amazon’s Echo, said in a statement.
Echo vs Other Products
This announcement is a reflection of Amazon’s strong efforts to compete against Apple’s voice-assistant Siri, Google’s Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana.
The only difference is that all the other voice-assistants work in smartphones while Echo is powered by Amazon’s Alexa software that isn’t used in a phone, but is instead used in a plug-in speaker that stays at home.
Amazon has already introduced a speech-recognition feature to its Fire TV streaming sett-top box and the recent announcement shows that Amazon doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned.
What Can You Do With Echo?
When Echo was released seven months ago, it had limited features, as the company was still working on improving the product. At that time, Echo only offered information from the Web and Wikipedia, music services, weather and news, timers and alarms, and to-do lists.
Since then, it has been integrated with connected-home products from Philips and Belkin, linked with information on sports scores and traffic, connected to Amazon.com to allow users to order specific products and given access to Google Calendar.
With Echo, you can now also play iHeartRadio music or Pandora, turn on a lamp using a Belkin WeMo light switch or order kitchen supplies on Amazon.com simply by asking the device. All you need to do is activate Alexa by asking for her by name and then ask her to do the required job.
Amazon also partnered with Audible to let you play your audiobook simply by saying, “Alexa, read my book”.
It is not easy to tell what the demand is like for Echo, as the company never reveals sales figures for specific products.
However, it has been reviewed more than 19,000 times so far with a 4.5-star rating on Amazon.com and the majority of the reviews are positive. If this remains consistent in the coming days, Echo may prove to be one of the most valuable products from Amazon.
So, when do you plan on purchasing Echo? Do you think it will give Amazon a competitive advantage? Please share your comments below.