Amazon’s Alexa-powered speakers have carved out a niche market for themselves. The company, most known for retail, finally hit a bulls-eye with hardware. Alexa has proven to be a very powerful digital assistant and unexpectedly claimed territory in a market that is, up until now, short of major players. Amazon has sold five million units within the last two years. With the release of Google Home it finally has some real competition, though. The Alexa assistant already comes on three speakers, the Echo Dot, the Tap and the Echo, but now a report from Bloomberg says a new, premium build model is coming out, with a 7-inch touchscreen.
The device is said to come out in Q1 2017 and will offer much better features, such as improved sound quality and AI-improvements, and more polished performance than previous Alexa speakers. The touch screen will most probably be tilted upwards to allow for typing and a convenient viewing angle.
The touchscreen would add additional functionality to the device such as typing to input commands, seeing the information you requested, facial recognition or fingerprint sensors to turn on the device etc. The new premium speaker should also feature a better AI, with better conversational abilities and much better recognition for accents, colloquialisms and slang.
The current, Echo Dot, Tap and Echo go for $49.99, $129.99 and $179.99 respectively and it’s safe to assume that the new, premium speaker will be more expensive than that.
While Amazon’s main, and only major competitor right now, is Google, the retail giant has a great lead on the competition. It would do well to exploit that lead and get its device in the hands of as many people as possible. The speakers’ no-nonsense design and professional look have hit a chord with customers. It has a much more business-like feel than its counterpart at Google, which fits in with the company’s strategy to portray itself as a friend rather than a huge tech giant that accesses all your data.
More importantly, Amazon finally has a hit on its hands after the failure of the Fire line of phones and tablets. And there’s something to be learned from all that, especially in relation to Alexa. People didn’t really warm up to the UI or the marketplace that Amazon offered in its devices. No matter how cheap they were, people were never blown over by the devices’ performance, looks or specs.
Amazon currently has about 4.0% of the global market share. It’s behind Huawei and Lenovo for Pete’s sake. I’ve never owned an Amazon device but I can guess why sales tanked. Even when the Kindle Fire came out it looked…boring. It was too stale and unappealing for me to even consider buying it. It never had the flash of the iPad or the great functionality of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. And here is where Amazon needs to be careful. The UI it will build for the Alexa speaker’s touchscreen needs to be more appealing to customers, just like the design of the speaker.