"Alexa, do we really need a voice-activated speaker that listens for our every command?"
Amazon is trying to earn a spot on our bookshelves, countertops and coffee tables with Echo, a wireless device that's ready to stream music and answer the types of questions you could easily ask Windows' Cortana or Apple's Siri. UPDATE: Echo listens for commands when prompted by a word set up by the user. The family in the video went with "Alexa."
Judging from the online infomercial, the device is perfect for any family that's just stepped out of a 1980s sitcom. ("Alexa, what's the definition of annoying? … Example, brother.") Echo is like the new Small Wonder—that show about a girl robot, V.I.C.I., who is just part of the family.
Amazon gadgets can be hit or miss with consumers—the Fire phone cost the company $170 million last quarter. Still, Amazon is trying to place devices in consumers' hands that make it easy to order products from the Web. And it's trying to send those goods faster with far-out concepts such as drone deliveries.
It also wants to sell as many digital books, movies and shows as it can. Echo is just another step toward total shopping control, a commercial outpost for Amazon embedded in the homes of its most loyal customers.
Echo starts at $199, a pretty steep price for a glorified speaker. Have a look: