As predicted, Amazon has a new Echo coming out in time for the holidays – and here’s how it plans to compete with Apple’s HomePod. Speaking of competing with Apple, the two are now in a price war over ultra HD video streaming, while Amazon’s free hand battles Google over the search engine giant’s surprise (or not) decision to stop supporting YouTube videos on the Echo Show. This and more in this week’s tracker.
Echo Rumors Confirmed
The rumors were right: Amazon is coming out with a new Echo device. Two of them, actually – the Echo and the Echo Plus, retailing for $99 and $150, respectively.
Amazon has reportedly worked to up the audio quality and voice recognition, with seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation that enable the voice assistant Alexa to hear commands even with loud ambient noise, conversation or music.
This may have been in response to Apple’s challenge with the HomePod, billed as the highest-quality audio experience on the market – but which critics said fell short in many other areas. If Amazon can keep ahead, or at least keep pace, in terms of sound, it could prevent Apple from getting a foothold in the space that Amazon so decisively dominates.
Amazon says the Echo Plus will work with more than 100 smart home devices out of the box, and will be packaged with one compatible Philips Hue smart lightbulb.
Google And Amazon Put On A Show
Echo Show owners are no longer able to view YouTube videos on the device, a move that caught customers and, reportedly, Amazon itself off guard. Apparently, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, chose to stop supporting the Echo Show as of Sept. 27.
Google said in a statement that the implementation of YouTube on Echo Show violated Google’s terms of service, and the company had been in talks with Amazon, but was unable to reach an agreement. The Show displayed YouTube videos without their concurrent video recommendations and channel subscriptions, a Reuters news report noted, which is the same problem Google previously encountered with Microsoft.
Amazon said there was “no technical reason” for Google to make this unilateral decision – one that the eCommerce giant said would disappoint and harm customers of both companies.
Ultimately, however, the harm is more to Amazon, as Google is making steady headway with smart home devices of its own – and if it goes the video route, the Google device will be able to play all the YouTube videos users could ever want.
Amazon And Apple Enter 4K Video Price War
Google isn’t the only one giving Amazon some pushback. Apple, upon revealing the next generation of the Apple TV, announced that it would be selling ultra HD movies for the same price as the HD version. This drove Amazon to also drop prices on 4K movies in order to undercut Apple.
Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are in a four-way race to become the internet’s next streaming service destination. Amazon was already beating Apple in terms of price, but with fewer titles, it makes sense that the company would want to keep users hooked with the lowest prices on the market.
Making Itself At Home In India
Amazon upped its investment in India’s brick-and-mortar scene by purchasing a 5 percent stake in the retail Shoppers Stop, which has 80 locations across the country and is gunning for 100 with the $28 million investment from Amazon. Reportedly, Amazon plans to broaden its Indian business reach in smaller towns as it increases its presence in the world’s second most populous nation.
Also in India, Amazon’s B2B service Amazon Business has just launched, after reaching over 1 million customers in its first months of operation in the U.S. and U.K. Serving small- and medium-sized businesses, the marketplace portal will empower Amazon India’s 220,000 sellers to meet their procurement needs. According to reports, the merchant community has repeatedly asked for the ability to bypass consumer quantity limits while shopping in Amazon India’s B2C marketplace.
On Innovation Road
Next year, BMW drivers will be able to leverage Alexa skills from the car’s built-in infotainment system, enabling them to navigate better, unlock the vehicle and operate devices via the car. BMW is incorporating far-field microphones into the vehicle to optimize Alexa interactions.
Volkswagen is taking a similar path, as the German carmaker announced in January. Alexa will interact with Volkswagen’s Car-Net system to monitor speed, locate the parked car, alert authorities in the event of an accident and check the car’s essential functions and stats, from fluid levels to how the windshield wipers are working.