Amazon declared today something that readers already knew… Amazon Echo devices are awesome.
Specifically Amazon noted:
“Sales of Amazon Echo family of devices up more than 9x over last year’s holiday season”
“Echo Dot is the best-selling, most gifted item on Amazon.com with millions sold worldwide since launch”
“Alexa devices made up top-selling products across all categories on Amazon.com including Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Fire tablet and Amazon Echo”
From this we can gather that Echo hardware is selling extremely well… probably better than I even thought possible. The Echo Dot was the key to the growth as its price point ranged between $40 and $50 through most of the holiday season. Finally, devices that are Alexa-enabled are doing quite well. I’m not sure that I’d call a Fire tablet an Alexa device as it did so many things before Alexa, but Amazon’s free to categorize things how they want.
The Amazon press release gives more details about popular Alexa questions. One thing I found notable is that there are a lot of people who don’t know how to make chocolate chip cookies.
Presumably they did some hiring in the May to October gap that isn’t covered. If Amazon were able to fill those open 400 jobs, they might be within striking distance of 2000 employees. That’s a lot of people working on a product.
I think they’ll need each and every one of them. They’ve recently ramped up advertising efforts and are saturating the market with Echo Dots for under $50. I’m obviously biased, but I feel like everyone should own at least one, and families should own several.
Another way to look at this is that Amazon needs to continue to invest in the Alexa/Echo platform. Google is expected to announce their version of the Echo in a few hours. That product will be called Google Home and it should go on sale soon after the announcement… or maybe even right away.
The article chronicles the history of how Amazon was working on the Echo way back in 2011. However, they didn’t seem to know if it was going to be successful as it was an entirely new concept. Were consumers going to understand something with no screen that would always be listening? Admittedly even after the release of the Echo, it’s taken me some time to get accustomed to the idea.
The article continues to give details on how they reached a nearly impossible engineering feat (at the time) in getting Alexa to respond to people’s commands in around 1.5 seconds. Even with that hurdle conquered, there was a matter of making it extremely user-friendly which required a very process of user-testing.
The final hurdle is one that I believe Amazon is still trying to clear today. In order to sell the Echo to consumers they need a “killer use case.” This was clearly going to be music as that’s what testers said they used the most. However, this lead to an interesting paradox. They didn’t want the Echo to be seen as just a way to play music. Indeed, now it is considered the de-facto home-automation hub.
You may have noticed that recently Amazon is marketing the things other than music that the Echo can do. For example, you always read about it being able to order an Uber or Domino’s Pizza.
Overally, it is a fascinating read and it’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited to write about Amazon Echo and Alexa Voice Services.