Amazon Echo, a Siri for the home

Amazon has announced, but not yet released, a Siri-like device for your living room or kitchen. It’s called Amazon Echo.

Echo plugs into the wall and your house wifi. Configuration is via an app or browser:

Connect to your home network with a simple setup, guided by the free companion app on Fire OS and Android, plus desktop and iOS browsers.

Interesting that there’s not an iOS app. Clearly, Amazon has the resources to build one. This feels like a tactic, though a bit ham-fisted.

Echo is always on, much like “Hey Siri” or “OK Google”, always listening for its name, a name that you get to choose. Like Siri, you can ask Echo questions or give it commands, as long as they fit into its knowledge domain. Watch the video below to get a sense of how broad that domain really is. And, I suspect, that domain will continue to grow over time.

I think Amazon will sell a ton of these. Why? Because they are filling a niche that is completely unserved right now. The butler robot is coming, but it is not here yet. And your cell phone is in your pocket and requires some amount of effort to access. Like that butler robot, Echo will be forever waiting for your command, waiting to serve you up some cloud-based information, assist you with a reminder, or help make an Amazon purchase, perhaps.

One key here is that Echo does not require a subscription fee. If you do not have a Siri-like capability on your cell phone, this adds that capability, and in a form that works well in your home.

I wonder if Echo will be able to access an existing reminder/calendar system? Given the lack of an iOS setup app, is it fair to assume that any bridge to your personal calendar will be limited to Android? Time will tell on this one.

I see this as a missing piece in the move toward home automation. This seems like a natural front end for Apple HomeKit. What Siri is no doubt headed for, but without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. The tiny time savings of not having to pull your phone out of your pocket might seem like a foolish thing on which to base a business strategy, but I do think it will work. Until it gets commoditized and everyone is selling one.