Amazon Wants To Take Over Your Home

Photo: Courtesy Amazon.
Amazon's Echo home speaker (a favorite of staffers) has slowly been taking over living rooms. Powered by a virtual assistant named Alexa, you can talk to the glorified speaker to do all sorts of things, from play a Spotify playlist, to order an Uber, to ordering pizza. Now, it's got two companions so you can Alexa-fy your whole house, and then some. The first is the Amazon tap, a portable version of the Amazon Echo. The second is the Echo Dot, a smaller companion speaker aimed at existing Echo owners. Where Apple, Google, Samsung, and others have popular smartphones you can grab for voice dictated queries and commands, Amazon has had little to no luck in that space. (Remember the Amazon Fire Phone? Yeah, that's what we thought.) So instead, it's been targeting the home (the living room, in particular) with these gadgets that make your space smarter, and connect to Amazon's ecosystem of products and digital media. Today's new products build on that vision. The Amazon Tap looks a lot like the original cylindrical Amazon Echo, except it's more travel-friendly. With 360-degree speakers, it can stream music directly from your phone or tablet over Bluetooth, or play tunes from Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and a few other sources (whether or not your phone is connected). When Tap is connected to WiFi, you can use it for all the tasks you'd normally be able to use an Echo for, such as asking her to read you the day's news or the weather, or ordering pizza from Domino's. It's got up to nine hours of audio playback, so it'll last all day at the park, and has an optional case (a "Sling") that makes it easy to tote around, or attach to a backpack. The Sling comes in six fun colors: tangerine, magenta, green, blue, black, and white. The second product is the Echo Dot, and interestingly, not just anyone can buy it quite yet. It's like a little buddy existing Echo owners can buy so they can talk to Alexa no matter what room of the house they're in. It looks like a thick, oversize, plasticky coaster with a ring of blue light around its edge. It functions the same as the Echo or the Tap, using your voice for it to pull up information or order things from Amazon. And in this case, it can only be purchased through that voice control — Echo owners can actually say, "Alexa, order an Echo Dot" to buy one. The Dot costs $90 and the Tap is $130. The idea of a speaker constantly listening in on your conversations in your home is a little creepy, but we see the benefits. In a home outfitted with Alexa everything, you might never have to get off the couch again.

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