A Bright Future for the Ridiculous Amazon Echo?

Priority one, integrate with Audible audiobooks.

November 11, 2014

It is easy to make phone of Amazon’s new Siri-In-A-Can Amazon Echo. A quick search of “Amazon Echo Parody” on YouTube will dispel any doubts about the comic value of this new device.

So what if the Echo can do less than what your phone’s digital assistant can already accomplish? So what if the Echo fills a need that none of us knew we actually had? So what if the Amazon music service that the Echo connects with has never gotten much traction?

The real story of the Echo is the same story as every Amazon piece of hardware. What is ridiculous today may be potential interesting tomorrow.  Who can forget how ugly the first generation of Kindle e-readers were when first launched in November of 2007. This $399 device was funny looking, slow, and difficult to navigate. But Amazon stuck with it, and today’s Kindle e-readers are cheap, fast, and elegant.  

One reason not to prematurely count the Echo out, or the Fire Phone, is that Amazon’s hardware is best thought of as storefronts for Amazon’s goods. The Kindle e-reader makes it money not on device sales but on Kindle book sales. Amazon doesn’t even need to make much money on books, as the real goal is to create lifelong customers for the Amazon ecosystem. Your book browsing and buying habits reveal an enormous amount about your preferences, data that Amazon can use to better understand and market to its customers. Amazon will be motivated to stick with and improve the Echo because Amazon thinks that we will want to shop with the Echo.  “Alexa, put the new Richard Ford book in my shopping list”.  If nothing else, the Echo will be an interesting experiment if people will really buy more things if they can order without a screen.

The biggest disappointment of the Echo is that it doesn’t seem to work with Audible. A speaker that allowed me to easily listen to my synched up audio and Kindle (Whispersync) books just might find a way into my home.  Actually, I’d buy Echo’s for every room in the house. The kitchen for reading while cooking and doing dishes. The bedroom for listening to books on the sleep timer when falling asleep. Make a waterproof Echo and I’d have one for reading in the shower.   

Can you think of any reasons why you’d want to own an Amazon Echo?


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