Amazon’s attempt to break into the smartphone market didn’t really work that well for the company, but the retail giant refused to give up its hardware ambitions, finding a gap in the untapped smart home device segment instead, and exploiting it using Amazon Alexa-powered Amazon Echo devices.
One big reason for their success is is that Amazon kept thinking ‘hardware’ when all their competitors – Apple with Siri, Microsoft and its Cortana and Google’s Google Assistant – kept their focus on the software side of things. Not having a huge operating system user base was a huge weakness that Amazon had with respect to their competitors. Apple’s iOS has more than a billion active devices around the world, Google’s Android is the ultra-dominant player in the mobile market and Microsoft still has loyal Windows followers around the world.
As all these companies started working on their AI-powered personal assistants, Amazon was at a huge disadvantage. There was no direct way to connect to their customers. So, they decided not to take the iOS app or Android App route but, instead, decided to build a standalone smart home speaker and put Amazon Alexa behind it.
It’s quite possible that even Amazon didn’t realise how much pent-up demand was there for such a product. With smartphones occupying a huge part of lives, as well as being in control of our communication with the world, the odds of having another connected device in our homes didn’t look that promising.
If the industry had realised there was sufficient room for a product there, they would have jumped in, with Apple and Google already launching their seventh or eighth version of that smart home device. But Apple still doesn’t have anything like it, and Google Home only started out a few months ago.
According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, there are 8.2 million Amazon Echo device users, thanks to the roaring sales of the Amazon Echo family during the holiday season. Amazon said that sales during last year’s holiday season jumped nine fold.
“Sales of Amazon Echo family of devices up more than 9x over last year’s holiday season. Echo Dot is the best-selling, most gifted item on Amazon.com with millions sold worldwide since launch” – Amazon Press Release December 27, 2016
Business Insider’s estimates above, taken from CIRP and other sources including Amazon.com could actually be extremely conservative.
And now, Amazon Alexa is pushing on multiple pressure points: OEM device integration into smartphones, refrigerators, etc.; making Alexa Skills Kit use practically free for developers; promoting voice shopping in a big way; and several other initiatives that will eventually take Amazon Alexa to greater heights than Apple, Google or Microsoft have ever gone with their own smart voice assistants.
And it all started with the Amazon Echo.
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