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Amazon just asked Alexa to declare war on every smart home company

Amazon Echo family
Amazon Echo family (Image credit: Android Central)

The AmazonBasics Microwave (opens in new tab) stole many of the headlines as a wacky device that there was no way Amazon was going to actually announce. But today, it did. The microwave itself isn't interesting in the least — it's the most generic, cheap-looking microwave this side of a college dorm room. But it, along with the dozen other Echo-related hardware announcements Amazon just made, marks the point at which Amazon declared war on every other smart home device company.

Because anything you can do, Amazon can do cheaper. And in the current world of smart home devices, that's incredibly important. We've mostly left the world of unnecessarily expensive smart home gadgets like $50 connected lightbulbs and such, but this smart home gear is still very spendy compared to the "dumb" versions of these things we already have in our homes.

Everything Amazon announced at its hardware event

AmazonBasics Microwave

Amazon's economies of scale are going to plow it into the top sales charts of every smart home segment it enters, just as it's done in so many other industries. There are few companies that can make these smart home products as cheaply as Amazon. The new Amazon Smart Plug is $25 (opens in new tab). The Echo Input is $35 (opens in new tab). The Echo Wall Clock is $30 (opens in new tab). Amazon is selling the new-and-improved Echo Dot and Echo Plus for the same price you'd pay for plain old Bluetooth speakers that have no smart capabilities and probably worse audio quality. And by the way the new Echo Plus has a temperature sensor built in. You won't be buying one of those separately anymore.

Amazon is amazingly good at making good products for less — now, it can make smart products for less too.

The products that are most interesting in this context are the ones that are actually the least-interesting products (stay with me here). The microwave and clock, for example, are super-basic products that you normally wouldn't think about or research for more than 10 minutes before buying. They're impulse-purchase items where you so often make a decision based on price — and Amazon is able to offer these items at competitive prices, delivered tomorrow ... but they're "smart" versions of the products. The use of the AmazonBasics brand is particularly intriguing, because that's the brand it applies to value-focused products across so many market segments already — and in most cases, they are so good yet so cheap that they kill the competition.

It's a strategy that's now going to kill businesses in the smart home segment. Not only can Amazon make and sell solid hardware for the same or less than the competition, it undoubtedly has better name recognition at the same time. And in areas where it doesn't, it simply buys it — look at the acquisition of Ring as a perfect example. It takes the brand and the product line, and immediately starts iterating on it with those same great economies of scale — and broad Amazon ecosystem synergies — to take on the competition in the home security segment practically overnight.

Echo Plus and Echo Sub

Once the functionality gets near parity, people start caring about brand name and price — Amazon can win in both.

Amazon's gunning hard for Sonos, too. The Echo Plus (and even Echo Dot) keeps getting audio improvements, and now the speakers can be paired together, tied to a new Echo Sub, and synced across your home with multi-room audio. Oh and naturally the Echo Plus is cheaper than a Play One, and the Echo Sub is one-fifth the price (opens in new tab) of the Sonos Sub. A bundle of two Echo Plus speakers and an Echo Sub (opens in new tab) is less than a Sonos Play:5. Want to link up other speakers instead? You have the Echo Input and Echo Link Amp.

An overwhelming majority of people don't care that the Sonos has better in audio quality across the board — and when the functionality is effectively the same as the competition, the price is then the killer feature. Amazon always wins in the price category. Sonos will still own the very high-end tier of people who are not price-sensitive and are willing to pay for the brand and the better audio quality, but Amazon's latest home audio efforts are going to sweep up the (larger) lower end of the market that would normally stretch to buy a few Sonos speakers.

Alexa Connect Kit

Amazon plays nice with partners — until it wants to enter the same segment itself.

Of course Amazon is playing nice in its forward-facing announcements. It has a new Alexa Connect Kit that's a plug-and-play all-in-one board for turning companies' dumb appliances into smart ones with little development work. It's offering open and free APIs for companies to make their devices work with the larger Alexa ecosystem. But there's one thread that runs through all of this: these are ways for your products to integrate with Amazon's platform. It's a stopgap to get appliances and other smart home tech on board from other companies in segments where Amazon doesn't (yet) operate. But when you look at the types of products it rolled out today, no product segment can be considered safe.

Other companies will keep making smart home gadgets, and many will even be happy to play in the Alexa ecosystem. But not a single company should laugh off Amazon's presence in the space. Whether you look at the last two years of Echo sales or the near-dozen new products announced today, it's clear Amazon has little restraint when it comes to entering new segments. Get ready for a fight.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • I wonder if Amazon will ever attempt to re-enter the smartphone space. The Fire Phone was objectively awful, and I think that scared Amazon off of phones for a while .
  • My guess is that they won't bother going back into smartphones. They have a decent thing going with tablets, and that model gets really complicated when you try to go with phones. Seems like they're happy enough making good apps and having a "Prime Exclusive" phone program to sell others unlocked instead.
  • It won't fly as long as Amazon refuses to integrate Google services and even then it will most likely take some massive investment and dedication to make a dent. The reason the Fire tablets are doing well is that it barely had any competition on the tablet market. Shame cause I actually like the hardware of the Fire Phone.
  • But that would make it a Amazon Exclusive or whatever they call those phones with Amazon software.
  • If Google switches to Fuschia, that would open a window for Amazon and others to break free of Google services. So, it's possible.
  • After this Amazon supersize announcement of smart home products, I am more excited and looking forward to October 9th.
  • The amount of hardware that Amazon announced today is incredible. I have no idea how Google can even keep up. They'll have to rely on partners to at least try to stay at paridy. One thing I think would be awesome would be to put an echo show screen where the glass of the microwave would be.
  • True but Google Assistant is way more useful and intelligent than Alexa and Google is rapidly catching up to Amazon.
  • Not true when there are 20k devices that work with alexa and ONLY 5k devices (may 2018) that work with google, it is google that needs catching up. I have both and google has a long way to go. I use alexa to do things, not answer stupid questions.
  • Well, considering Alexa only had 4,000 devices at the beginning of the year, I'm sure Microsoft's partnership has helped Amazon contributed substantially to that compatibility growth this year. ...and answering questions and providing solutions is a good thing, btw. Perhaps a bit better than just ordering more paper towels and granola bars.
  • Velcro?
  • I need that Microwave! Lol, Kind regards Richard U.K
  • I already have 5 Google mini and home speakers. Will ALEXA new stuff play with Google? If not, shouldI be interested?
    Amazon tablets aren't sold in Amazon Australia, guessing the smart socket won't play with Google assistant.
    Can you make a mixed be group of Google and ALEXA speakers?
  • This company is scary.
  • People are so dumb, it's amazing! They whining about their privacy, ******** about evil Facebook, using encrypted email but plaster their homes with spy devices while Amazon and Co laughing their asses off over the amount of data they can harvest now. I'm not even talking about security yet. Yeah, we all need internet connected microwaves, fridges, light bulbs and - best of all - door locks! The world has truly gone mad!
  • think about the privacy you lost when you got online and made your post. you are no different than those you laugh at.
  • Maybe I'm in the minority, but I've never found a use for or interest in any of the voice assistants. Every once in a while I'll 'Ok Google' a text while driving, but that is it.
  • It just depends on your needs and apparently you don't rally have a need :-)
  • Maybe you're a bit like my wife, in personality. She is weirdly averse to using the devices. She asks me stuff; I put the same to my 'Home' devices, and she gets her answers.
  • This sounds... alittle too 'Singularity' esk to me... Suddenly Amazon is making all things that interact with a 'dumb' A.I., but also things that make non 'smart' devices suddenly 'smart-ish'... And they're doing it by driving out other companies, and snatching up ones that they think won't go under... This just screams "Hey, we need some regulation here or we're going to somehow create a humanity wiping thing that, well, wipes humanity off the face of the earth"...
  • It all looks interesting but when you've to tie into Amazon services then it'll never be for me, no matter what the hardware or how cheap it gets.
  • the thing is, unless you purchased a device that is amazon only, then you are not really tied into amazon. most things that work with amazon will work with google.
  • More surveillance 🤪
  • If Amazon is really intent on taking over this sector than the one thing they really need to do is make their base work with everything. I've been using Samsung's SmartThings platform for some time now and, after a really encouraging start where they were including a whole slew of things under the Groovy IDE, they really narrowed the range of "officially supported" devices. The best thing Amazon could do is to make it easy to create support for devices and make a big deal out of the "Works with Alexa" logo.
    Cheap is great (as long as quality isn't a casualty), but far-ranging coverage is important as well.
  • Careful. Costco sells a two-pack of CE Smart plugs that plays well with both Alexa and Google Home for $25 CDN (USD20?) That is less that one-third the price of the Alexa option. Had one installed and running in under10 minutes. You need to know home to use the Home Automation Partners' list within Google Home--not intuitive! [Could use some automation there! :) ] Yes, you need a Costco membership, but for those of us who have one and can handle the integration, that cost is unbeatable. Amazon price is not even close.
  • I think the real point is getting lost here. I don't think it's really Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri. It's how Amazon chooses to grow and remain relevant. If Alexa isn't ahead of the game, it falls behind. If it falls behind, it loses revenue from not only Alexa-integrated products, but also from streaming services and basic retail sales as well. The question Amazon is constantly having to ask itself is whether it wants to remain relevant through the years or if it just wants to be an online retailer like thousands of other sites. They found a way in to the daily lives of consumers that is beyond mere point-and-click purchasing and are exploiting the heck out of it.
  • We have both original Echo that we got at lunch, and Home Mini that we got as a freebie early this year. Google Assistant is so much better than Alexa it's not even a comparison. We went from a novelty item with Alexa sitting in the kitchen, where we would use it for playing music and timers, to now having the whole family using Google Assistant, including my young kids. I literally just ordered the Home Max and another Mini yesterday. Google is so far ahead of everyone, I'm not sure how Amazon, or Apple can catch up. I won't even mention the Bixby creator in the same sentence...