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Why I’m not on the Amazon Echo bandwagon…yet

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 9.32.56 AMI almost bought an Amazon Echo last November. It was on sale for $129 and I figured it was too good a deal to pass up. Amazon promised two-day Prime delivery but they got overwhelmed by all the orders and, like many others, they botched mine and said I might receive it by end of year. At that point I decided it wasn’t meant to be so I cancelled and I’m glad I did.

I already have a couple of other terrific Bluetooth speakers and while the Alexa voice control feature is nice, I’m not convinced it’s worth $100+. It reminds me of dedicated GPS devices and fitness bracelets, both of which have been replaced by sensors in my phone.

Echo is more of a nice-to-have, not need-to-have, item for me, especially with its ability to turn news and other types of written content into streamable audio content. But I’m much more interested in a mobile solution, not one that sits on a countertop.

Like GPS and fitness devices, Echo’s main functionality will also eventually find its way into the phone itself. The reason I’m prefer a mobile solution is that I spend a lot of time in my car where I use the Bluetooth feature of my radio and phone to listen to podcasts, music, etc.

The Echo platform becomes very attractive to me when it’s nothing more than an app on my phone that plays through my car radio. The app handles all the speech command conversion via the cellular connection, the same way the streaming content arrives.

This app doesn’t have to be free, btw. Charge me $5/month or something close to that and I’ll gladly pay for the option to “play news” and other commands in my car.

Where this really gets fascinating is with longer-form content and the ability to use voice commands to annotate and highlight audio books, for example. Whether it’s in my car or at home, it would be nice to finally have the ability to do more than just listen to an audio book. For example, when I hear a noteworthy passage, I’d like to be able to say “pause”, “highlight last two sentences”, “add private note to highlight saying ‘this is something I should pass along to the marketing team’”, etc.

Take it a step further and integrate my email app so that rather than just making that verbal note to pass along to marketing, let me say, “create email to Joe Smith at company.com, subject ‘key discovery’, body is highlight, send.”

Let’s say you’re listening to that book and you hear a phrase, person or location you’re not familiar with. The app should have the ability for me to say, “pause”, “tell me about phrase/person/location” and the app responds with the appropriate audio stream (e.g., top Google search result, Wikipedia entry, etc.)

All my audio highlights and annotations must be searchable, by voice as well as text. In fact, let’s add the capability to integrate all these highlights and notes into Evernote so I can keep everything in one place.

Amazon might be happy selling $100+ voice-controlled Bluetooth speakers today but the real opportunity is with a fully mobile, app-driven solution that integrates with a broader number of content sources and streams. We’re not there yet but by combining voice control and streaming audio the Amazon Echo platform is starting to show us what’s possible down the road.

Comments

Didou

Hi Joe:

It's always good to come across a dissenting voice, as such pieces help people like us, who are very bullish about the Amazon Echo, make sure that we are not rushing headlong without due thought and reflection.

My own feeling is that voice on a mobile device that is designed for tapping and swiping is not the interface where voice belongs. The ability to interact with the world by speaking and listening should stand in its own right and should be respected for what it enables us to do.

The Echo is the only interface to day that really takes the eyes-free/hands-free challenge seriously and solves that challenge well.

I think the best way for you to feel the value that so many people are extracting from their Echo is to have one in your life. You simply can't fairly assess this revolutionary interface without having interacted with it seriously for at least a couple of weeks.

Thanks & cheers,
Ahmed Bouzid
http://www.linkedin.com/in/ahmedbouzid

Victoria Hay

What an interesting post -- thank you!

Personally, I prefer to read the news over listening to audio versions. I can read several times faster than a reporter can speak, and I don't care for the froth and fluff that come with so much audio and visual news reporting. Too much time wasting, too much potential for minor annoyance.

Richard Billings

I have the original and have pre-ordered 2 Echo Dots and an Echo Tap. We use it quite often for news in the morning, shopping lists, music, and of course the kids make her tell jokes.

Sam

That sucks, and the voice control thingy is mehh. It looks great though

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