BREAKING NEWS Forward progress has stopped on Butte Creek Canyon fire Full Story
BREAKING NEWS Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Covid-19 has been approved in the US Full Story

Amazon wants Alexa everywhere

Amazon won't make massive amounts of money off of its new $60 Alexa-controlled microwave. Or the Alexa contr...

Posted: Sep 23, 2018 10:22 AM
Updated: Sep 23, 2018 10:22 AM

Amazon won't make massive amounts of money off of its new $60 Alexa-controlled microwave. Or the Alexa controlled wall clock that only sets timers. In fact, making a profit from its growing selection of Alexa and Echo devices may be beside the point.

The company is working toward something bigger and potentially more lucrative.

Amazon wants its Alexa voice assistant to be an inescapable, invisible presence that is always with us, like a perky shadow. And it is trying to accomplish that without the inescapable gadget we already take everywhere: our phones.

On Thursday, Amazon announced 13 new Echo and Echo-adjacent gadgets at a press event in Seattle. In addition to the clock and microwave, there were new Echo smart speakers, a device that puts Alexa in cars, and a dedicated DVR to compete with 2007's hottest gadget, the TiVo.

"It's absolutely not about the revenues or the gross margins that these devices create," said Werner Goertz, an analyst at Gartner. "It is investment in the proliferation of Alexa. Proliferation creates an infrastructure."

Amazon wants to draw users into its ecosystem, says Goertz. The real money will come when Alexa users buy products on Amazon.com, consume Amazon Prime content, and use Amazon Web Services.

Data is at the heart of this plan for voice domination. The major players all have their own data-collection strengths, said Julie Ask, an analyst at Forrester.

Google has information from your email, calendar and locations, while Apple knows everything you do with your smartphone. Amazon primarily knows what you buy and watch, but Alexa is changing that.

Imagine having regular conversations with your microwave. Information about what you eat and when could be worth more to Amazon than what you paid for the appliance.

"In order for any one of these virtual assistants to work well, it has to have a lot of contextual data about a consumer," said Ask. "Embedding Alexa would give Amazon a bigger data footprint."

Amazon clearly has ambitions for Alexa outside of the home. Thursday's smallest but most intriguing new product was the Echo Auto, which brings Alexa microphones and commands into the car. Like most first generation Echo devices, the Auto has an uninspired design — a black rectangle with buttons and an unsightly wire connecting it to a power source. But it creates a new product category.

Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant are already in vehicles, but they came in through smartphones and built-in car infotainment systems. Perhaps because it's still smarting for the failure of the Fire Phone in 2014, Amazon is trying to make Alexa mobile with gadgets like Echo Auto instead.

Even if Amazon can make an end run around the phone to hear commands everywhere, it's not clear the future will boil down to a single dominant voice assistant.

"The jury is still out whether we'd want one single agent moving from screen to screen," said Justine Cassell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute. "Would we would different branded agents in each of our devices with a different sets of skills? For Amazon, it's to their advantage to have that character move from screen to screen."

Which assistant ends up being everywhere may not have as big of an impact on our lives as how that Alexa, Siri or Janet actually works.

"It's curious to me whether they are always going to have the answer, which is not how we learn anything," said Cassell. "Or whether eventually they really are going to become useful tools for our development as people."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3559311

Reported Deaths: 51794
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118923221241
Riverside2894503767
San Bernardino2860772783
Orange2607213982
San Diego2589823260
Santa Clara1102371777
Kern102627811
Fresno950151422
Sacramento929611464
Alameda802791241
Ventura77395834
San Joaquin665691082
Contra Costa62164674
Stanislaus55887946
Tulare47784746
Monterey42138327
San Mateo38872515
San Francisco34138398
Santa Barbara31763407
Solano30024164
Merced28915395
Sonoma28004298
Imperial26855589
Kings21951218
Placer19763232
San Luis Obispo19612227
Madera15414209
Santa Cruz14588183
Marin13136197
Yolo12787185
Shasta10969174
Butte10922160
El Dorado9095100
Napa899869
Sutter884597
San Benito575259
Yuba573336
Lassen560119
Tehama508152
Tuolumne394659
Nevada394074
Mendocino379643
Amador344841
Humboldt318033
Lake314140
Glenn221923
Colusa212813
Calaveras190547
Siskiyou174014
Inyo128736
Mono12114
Del Norte9875
Plumas6536
Modoc4524
Mariposa3957
Trinity3675
Sierra990
Alpine810
Unassigned00
Oroville
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 55°
Oroville
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Auburn
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 45°
Red Bluff
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 55°
Red Bluff
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 55°
Oroville
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Windy & sunny conditions continue Sunday with more sunshine next week. Next weekend there will be a chance for some showers.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events