Amazon wants Alexa everywhere

Amazon won't make massive amounts of money off of its new $60 Alexa-controlled microwave. Or the Alexa contr...

Posted: Sep 23, 2018 12:22 PM
Updated: Sep 23, 2018 12:22 PM

Amazon won't make massive amounts of money off of its new $60 Alexa-controlled microwave. Or the Alexa controlled wall clock that only sets timers. In fact, making a profit from its growing selection of Alexa and Echo devices may be beside the point.

The company is working toward something bigger and potentially more lucrative.

Amazon wants its Alexa voice assistant to be an inescapable, invisible presence that is always with us, like a perky shadow. And it is trying to accomplish that without the inescapable gadget we already take everywhere: our phones.

On Thursday, Amazon announced 13 new Echo and Echo-adjacent gadgets at a press event in Seattle. In addition to the clock and microwave, there were new Echo smart speakers, a device that puts Alexa in cars, and a dedicated DVR to compete with 2007's hottest gadget, the TiVo.

"It's absolutely not about the revenues or the gross margins that these devices create," said Werner Goertz, an analyst at Gartner. "It is investment in the proliferation of Alexa. Proliferation creates an infrastructure."

Amazon wants to draw users into its ecosystem, says Goertz. The real money will come when Alexa users buy products on Amazon.com, consume Amazon Prime content, and use Amazon Web Services.

Data is at the heart of this plan for voice domination. The major players all have their own data-collection strengths, said Julie Ask, an analyst at Forrester.

Google has information from your email, calendar and locations, while Apple knows everything you do with your smartphone. Amazon primarily knows what you buy and watch, but Alexa is changing that.

Imagine having regular conversations with your microwave. Information about what you eat and when could be worth more to Amazon than what you paid for the appliance.

"In order for any one of these virtual assistants to work well, it has to have a lot of contextual data about a consumer," said Ask. "Embedding Alexa would give Amazon a bigger data footprint."

Amazon clearly has ambitions for Alexa outside of the home. Thursday's smallest but most intriguing new product was the Echo Auto, which brings Alexa microphones and commands into the car. Like most first generation Echo devices, the Auto has an uninspired design — a black rectangle with buttons and an unsightly wire connecting it to a power source. But it creates a new product category.

Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant are already in vehicles, but they came in through smartphones and built-in car infotainment systems. Perhaps because it's still smarting for the failure of the Fire Phone in 2014, Amazon is trying to make Alexa mobile with gadgets like Echo Auto instead.

Even if Amazon can make an end run around the phone to hear commands everywhere, it's not clear the future will boil down to a single dominant voice assistant.

"The jury is still out whether we'd want one single agent moving from screen to screen," said Justine Cassell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "Would we would different branded agents in each of our devices with a different sets of skills? For Amazon, it's to their advantage to have that character move from screen to screen."

Which assistant ends up being everywhere may not have as big of an impact on our lives as how that Alexa, Siri or Janet actually works.

"It's curious to me whether they are always going to have the answer, which is not how we learn anything," said Cassell. "Or whether eventually they really are going to become useful tools for our development as people."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 45°
Columbus
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 46°
Oxford
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 36°
Starkville
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 43°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather