Amazon revealed a whole host of new devices and accessories to its growing line of Alexa-enabled smart speakers on Wednesday as it attempts to cement its position as the leader in the connected home.
The tech giant unveiled a new, smaller version of its voice-activated Echo device that costs just $99 and packs an improved speaker with Dolby sound. It comes in multiple 'shells,' or designs, that include fabric, wood and a metal-like material.
Amazon, the e-commerce force outpacing companies across several industries, has revealed that it's investing in becoming even more of a beast.
Amazon also announced a new mini-version of the Echo Show called the Echo Spot. Video phone calls can be made from the Spot's small circular screen, and the device will cost $130. And the company also introduced an updated version of the Echo called the Echo Plus, which will sell for $150 and packs an improved speaker, a built-in smart home hub that recognizes smart bulbs and other devices that operate on the ZigBee internet of things standard.
"The original Echo was absolutely ripe for a refresh and as we're running up to the the holiday season, it's a perfect time to do it," said Ben Wood, a technology analyst at CCS Insight. Wood said he was surprised at the sheer number of announcements that Amazon made on Wednesday, but that he expected the update of the original Echo.
In addition to the Echo devices, Amazon also unveiled the $35 Echo Connect, which enables users to make phone calls from their landlines using their Echo devices, and a series of Echo Buttons, Bluetooth-connected devices that can connect to Alexa for games. As if that weren't enough, Amazon also announced a new FireTV with 4K streaming capabilities that starts at $60 -- a $100 discount to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) - Get Report recently-launched 4K Apple TV.
Amazon's smaller new Echo is priced at a sizable discount to the inaugural Echo, which started at $180. Other versions of the Echo include the $50 Echo Dot, the $229 Echo Show that features a large screen and the $200 Echo Look.
As for the source of this new product explosion, look no further than Amazon's hefty research and development outlays in recent years.
Amazon beat German automaker Volkswagen AG's (VLKAY) global research and development spending in 2016, which ranked number one from 2012 to 2015, by spending more than $16 billion. Meanwhile, Apple spent a record $10.39 billion on R&D in 2016.
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