As Google has often done, Amazon has created a “buzz” by not trying to create a buzz. They simply placed the Echo on the Amazon website with no pre-announcements. Do you know what this tells me? It tells me that Amazon thinks this product is going to be huge! Why the secrecy then? They did not want any competition because they have, potentially, created a whole new product line. To understand this, we have to take a look at just what what this product is.
Inside The Amazon Echo: What Is Echo?
Amazon placed the Echo on the front page of Amazon.com with a simple headline above all others: “Introducing Amazon Echo” as you see in the photo below.
I simply followed the link out of curiosity. The photo of Amazon Echo is completely underwhelming; it simply looks like a Bluetooth speaker. Then, I continued my investigations and my excitement piqued quite a bit and I thought: “Amazon may really be onto something here…no wonder why they kept this device such a big secret.”
How can this be little innocuous looking device create a who marketplace of products? To understand this, let’s take a look at just what is Echo?
I like to think of the Amazon Echo as a bunch of the technologies that we already use perfected and wrapped up into one little underwhelming looking omniscient device.
To understand Echo, let’s ask a few questions: Do you use a Bluetooth speaker with your phone? If you answered yes, this is just one of the many things that the Amazon Echo can do. It can be your speaker and, by all accounts, a good one at that. Do you check the weather everyday? Echo does that. Do you set an alarm clock? Echo does that? Do you want to know who won the World Series last year? Echo can tell you.
Big deal, you ask? Well, it seems like it’s not a big deal at first because I have the ability to do all of these things on my phone. However, with Echo, it does all of these things better because you never have to type anything or tap any screen. Echo is completely voice-controlled.
To do any of these tasks outlined above, you simply need to say the wake word, “Alexa”, and you’re on your way. “Alexa, how old is Richard Gere?”. It’s like having a friend with encyclopedic knowledge at your disposal. And, this is quite literally the case. Echo is always connected to the Internet with access to virtually everything. Given the way voice recognition and processing is evolving, Echo will continually improve and be able to update itself automatically.
Echo is positioned to be a device in your house that is always on. Thus, when you are walking around your house, you can just throw out questions to Alexa and she/he/it (whatever is your preference) will be able to hear your question and respond. Even with loud music playing or if you are in another room, the Echo can apparently hear you because it is equipped with something called “Far-Filed Voice Recognition”, a fancy term meaning that there are 7 speakers on the Echo with enhanced noise cancellation that are able to listen very carefully.
Though Echo is meant to me static in the household, I could see myself bringing this with me on vacations. Once you get use to just throwing out questions and having them answered, it might be hard to go without my smart new best friend.
How to Configure the Amazon Echo
Since we are talking about a device with no keyboard or screen, how do you even go about setting this up? Well, we can accomplish this in one of two ways. Amazon is introducing an Echo app for Android and FireOs that will allow direct interaction with the device for setup and many other interesting tasks like shopping lists. The app is not currently available for the Apple folks and iOS but will be shortly.
For those without the App, the Echo can be setup via a standard web browser. And, the setup is really nothing more than putting in your Wi-Fi ID and password as you’ve done for many devices already.
What is the Cost of the Amazon Echo
The Echo is being introduced to the market with two different price tags: one for Amazon Prime members ($99) and one for non-Amazon Prime members ($199).
I have been an Amazon Prime member for years and simply love it for the free shipping and unlimited books, movies, and television programs. However, you are also offered great deals like this one. Essentially, the savings on this item pays for the price of your Prime Membership. You can start Amazon Prime with a 30 day free trial as well so it’s a no risk offer.
But, even at the standard retail price of $199, I think that the Amazon Echo is worth it. If we think about it, many people will pay about this price for a standard Bluetooth speaker, yet the Echo does that and much, much more for the same price.
When Will the Echo Be Publicly Available
The release of this Amazon Echo product has been veiled in secrecy. However, we can speculate as to its availability from what we see on the Amazon website.
We know that, currently, the Echo is available by invitation only to Amazon Prime Members for the low price of $99. And, as we see in the photo below, the public availability of the Echo appears to be 3-5 weeks.
One thing seems clear: Amazon anticipates this to be a big seller and it will be available to all come the Holidays!
The Amazon Echo Review Conclusion: A Must-Have Device for Your Home
When I first saw that Amazon was introducing some new secret product, I thought it would probably be another attempt at an existing product-line: a new e-reader, phone, or tablet-y device. I wasn’t too enthused by this.
And then I started reading and reviewing the Echo…and seeing its usage potential. This is a completely new product that we haven’t seen. It may just be the perfect combination of many technologies that we have seen in awhile. Much how the iPod revolutionized music, might this little device revolutionize how we interact with our digital products?
Perhaps I could just ask Alexa: “Will the Amazon Echo be the blockbuster Christmas Gift?”
“Of course I will,” she responds knowingly.
Get your Amazon Echo today before they sell out!
Video Review of the Amazon Echo
In the video review below from Jacob Morgan, you will see the Amazon Echo live as it executes daily life commands. Jacob also speculates on the future of such devices and draws some promising conclusions.
Bonus Video: A Family Using the Amazon Echo
Get your copy of his latest book entitled Obvious Conclusions, stories of a Midwestern emigrant influenced and corrupted by many years living in San Francisco and abroad. It just received its first outstanding review "...reminiscent of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs" on Amazon UK.