This is the dawning of the Age of Alexa…at least on Black Friday (and EBRs sold well, too!)

This is the dawning of the Age of Alexa…at least on Black Friday (and EBRs sold well, too!)

Amazon’s

press release

about their recent Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales has two real stories. First, and importantly, hundreds of thousands of

Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

were sold.

Given the apparent maturity of that market, that seems remarkably high to me. Yes, they generally had big discounts (except for the Oasis, the top of the line model…and it intrigues me that we haven’t been seeing Amazon pulling out any sales trends ((Amazon rarely does actual numbers for sales)) for that model. It’s one of the very few I haven’t bought, since you can only buy it with an animal-leather cover at this point, and I don’t do that (I’ve talked about that previously  in the blog). I’m happy to see the continued success of dedicated-reading devices, though. Since you can buy Fire tablets more cheaply than you can the lowest price EBR, it is more of a niche device now. Serious book readers may be willing to pay more for an EBR, while casual readers may go for the Fire tablet. I read on both, personally.

The second story is how well Alexa (Amazon’s voice assistant) did! Amazon says millions of Alexa-enabled devices were sold…just this last weekend. That means it could have been ten times as many as EBRs.

That’s now a pretty wide range of devices, from the least expensive Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) (you don’t need the Voice Remote to use Alexa if you have a SmartPhone…you can use the free app), which was as low as $24.99 on Black Friday (it’s back to $39.99…but it is currently out of stock until December 12th) through Fire tablets starting normally at  Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) at $49.99 (they were $15 off) and the Echo family, which starts with the All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) at $49.99. You can get “bulk discounts” on the Dot and the least expensive Fire tablet.

Those aren’t the only Alexa-powered devices, and many more are coming. I really want Alexa in my car, and there is a Kickstarter which will do that for $49:

Dashbot Kickstarter

It does a whole more than that, and it’s already doubled its funding goal. I have it on my Amazon wish list for my family, even though Amazon doesn’t carry it. They have a button you can put into your browser to add things to your list from any site

Registry Button (at AmazonSmile*)

Alexa will eventually be everywhere.🙂

Speaking of Alexa, the blogosphere has been buzzing about this

Bloomberg News post by Mark Gurman

which says that Amazon may be developing a new high-end Alexa device, perhaps for release in the first quarter of 2017. It’s supposed to have much better speakers (two, perhaps)…and a 7″ touchscreen. Honestly, that seems weird to me…with Alexa already tied into the Fire tablets, is this that much of an advantage? It could be…the interface might be much more Alexa-focused, but they’ll have to convince me (if this is real) based on price and features.

By the way, I’ve got another question currently: why buy the original

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for $179 rather than a Dot for $49.99 and a Bluetooth or cabled speaker? I use our Dot with this speaker:

iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (at AmazonSmile*)

which is water-resistant (so I have it in the bathroom), pairs super easily (I just turn it on…it will even pick up mid-song), is working for me from maybe four meters away (call it a bit less than fifteen feet)…and currently costs $23.99 (down from $49.99). Plenty of choices for speakers.

Now, no question: a Dot by itself is pretty unobtrusive, but I really do want a decent speaker for music. The Dot itself is okay for speech, but the sound reminds me of an old pocket transistor radio…quite scratchy.

I think for most people the Dot/other speaker combination is probably better, although the integrated Echo is simpler (no pairing).

I have more stories (thanks to those of you who have been sending my heads ups), but this is probably long enough for tonight.😉

What do you think? Are you using a Dot with or without a speaker…and how does it compare for you to an Echo if you have one? Do you think EBRs will continue to sell? Will they appeal to people who only read a few books a year? What would make you want to buy an Alexa-powered device with a 7″ screen…if it cost, say, $250? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

14 Responses to “This is the dawning of the Age of Alexa…at least on Black Friday (and EBRs sold well, too!)”

  1. Man in the Middle Says:

    I can see one reason for adding a screen to the Echo: for dealing with the times the voice interface doesn’t quite succeed. For instance, I often use the Echo to play background music from Amazon Prime. Normally, all I have to say is “Alexa, pause” when I’m done, and then “Alexa, resume” the next time I want music. But occasionally, it loses its place, and no longer knows what I want resumed. At such times, I start the Alexa app on my iPad to recall exactly what to say to get the Echo back doing what I want.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      I can see this…how would that be an advantage for you over using, say, a tablet with Alexa and a nice Bluetooth (or cabled) speaker?

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ll post on an earlier post about black/cyber sale days (In a word: Meh!).

    The Echo with a screen has been mentioned by a couple of commenters (elsewhere) that this is probably an evolution of an earlier Lab126 project codenamed “Knight” which was originally envisioned as a Kindle/Fire device for the kitchen. I could see an Echo with a screen fitting in my kitchen quite nicely. If such a product appears, I will definitely buy one.

    The wider technoverse has been comparing the Google Home to the Echo, and postulating some kind of similar device from Apple incorporating Siri technology.

    Currently I have two Dots (a gen 1 and a gen2 — in white), a Tap, and my two year old original Echo. The Echo is currently in my Bedroom, and it gets the most usage (it’s going to wake me up at 9AM tomorrow so I can go get my teeth cleaned :grin).

    I plan to move the Echo to the living room, put the Gen 2 Dot in the bedroom where I’ll connect it to a Bose SoundLink Color speaker. The gen 1 Dot is in my office upstairs (haven’t decided yet on a speaker for that — maybe Sonos).

    As you know I also follow Microsoft. There has been a lot argy bargy about whether they will be releasing a “Surface” phone in early 2017.

    There is certainly some kind of mobile device coming (probably targeted at the business community). I wonder if that device might be an Echo wannabe utilizing Cortana? Not really pertinent to this blog, but it got me thinking: what if that device, or the new Echo with screen also included a phone? “Alexa please call my sister June”. That would be a nice recovery from the Fire Fone Fiasco (:grin).

    And quite useful to boot — no longer scurrying around (now where did I put that doggone SmartPhone or rushing to get to your landline (if you still have one) before it goes to voicemail.

    The new Echo with screen is reputed to use a variant of Fire OS, and will let you pin things to the screen — just like on your fridge😀 .

    Speaking of Fire OS, I just noticed that my Fire HDX 8.9, was updated on Nov 4th to 5.3.1.1 — not sure what that’s about — it is, however encouraging that they are adding features to a 2014 device.

    • Edward Boyhan Says:

      Today, I came across this report from Amazon’s ReInvent conference (going on this week) in which Intel and Amazon are collaborating on a reference design for Alexa-connected products, the first of which will appear in early 2017. I wonder whether this has anything to do with the rumored “Echo with screen” product.

      One last thought: with the proliferation of Echo/Alexa devices coming to homes everywhere, Amazon needs to provide more than the current paltry two wake words. I did read a technical paper somewhere where Amazon explained how this would be hard to do. “Alexa” was carefully chosen to minimize misrecognitions. (when watching TV Alexa will occasionally wake up for no apparent reason).

      Also maybe some intercommunication (perhaps cloud mediated) among all the Alexa-sensitive devices in a home might be useful/necessary?

      At ReInvent it was stated that Alexa now has over 5000 skills.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I’m just not sure why an Echo with a screen for a lot of money is better than a tablet with Alexa and a Bluetooth (or cabled) speaker, outside of the elegance of having it as one unit.

      As I’m sure you know, Cortana can now be installed on some phones, including my Galaxy S7. Microsoft hasn’t convinced me to really use Cortana yet, but I probably should try it. On my laptop, Cortana feels a bit like Clippy (the old Windows talking paper clip assistant). It seems to pop up when I don’t ask it with not very helpful information. If the audio on my laptop was better, I’d be more interested…but Alexa sounds so much better. I do use Google Now…I would say it has the best speech recognition of the ones I’ve tried, but Alexa can do a lot more.

      I’m planning to write about the new ability to text through the Echo (if you have AT&T…we do) this weekend. I’m finding that very useful! I’d love to have a phone, but rather than have it be a phone, it would be fine with me if it was an interface to my Galaxy…like my car can be.

      As to the update, it’s one of those performance/bug fix things…shouldn’t be any new features. The page says, “The software update includes general improvements and performance enhancements”.

      There is a recent new feature for Kindle EBRs (an “all bold” option)…I’ll write about that soon, too.🙂

  3. Karen Salmons Says:

    I have an Echo, Tap and Dot. I bought the Dot for the bedroom to use as an alarm and to control my Phillips Hue light. I decided that for the money I didn’t mind the “tinny” speaker. I was using the Echo for these 2 things but I also played music when I went to bed with the timer set to turn it off. I’ve also been taking the Tap into the bathroom in the morning but have been worried about moisture. After reading your column I checked out the waterproof speaker you have and have ordered it. I can use it in the bedroom at night and in the morning in the bath. I can then put the Tap back in the laundry room for use there and to grab on the way out to take with me. I live in a small, one bedroom house and was occasionally having conflicts between the Echo and Dot so changed the wake word for the Dot to Amazon…problem solved. As an early adopter I’m still very happy with the Echo, the speaker is more than enough for me but I can see where, for cost sake, some people would opt for the Dot/Bluetooth speaker option. Still a great choice.

    Cost will likely prevent me from jumping on a screen enhanced Echo as I’m now completely retired and money isn’t as freely available.🙂 I will say, though, if that wasn’t the case I’d most likely get one. What can I say? I’m hooked and love new stuff.

    I have a Fire HDX 7 and the Fire HD 7 but still use the original Kindle PaperWhite for reading most of the time. When I’m out I do use the phone but prefer the e-reader. I don’t see them going away anytime soon or until someone figures out how to integrate backlit and non-backlit into one device. I think someday that might happen.

    I always get something useful from your columns, thanks!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I’m glad you find it useful!

      I use an original Echo and a Dot every day…and additionally a Tap on weekdays. The only one on which I listen to music extensively is the Tap…that’s how I listen to music at work. I usually play birthday artists on Prime Music…I have eclectic tastes, and I love listening to artists who I don’t know as well. That made for an interesting day recently (on December 2), when I listened to Nelly Furtado, Maria Callas, Charlie Puth, and Britney Spears.🙂

      The Echo is in our family room and the Dot is in our bedroom. Since we have it tied into our home automation, that’s one of the main uses…turning lights on and off, and turingn the TV on and off (and selecting an input).

  4. Tom Semple Says:

    I have two Dots and one Echo. Both of the Dots are connected to powered speakers using an audio cable, the old fashioned way. It would work with most home audio systems as well. It is simple enough, and you can of course get true stereo separation, or depending on the audio equipment, simulated surround effects etc. Cannot do that with Echo.

    Note that you cannot pair Dot with just any old Bluetooth speaker, they need to support certain protocols. And apparently there are not any headphones that support this. Another complication.

    Fire TV lacks only the ‘always on’ microphone to enable Alexa. But it serves as Bluetooth ‘server’ for a greater range of speakers and headphones (if you don’t want to play through TV speakers).

    • Tom Semple Says:

      Basically a bluetooth speaker has to have a way to enter the PIN code which Dot will announce. Bluetooth headphone manufacturers apparently have not felt there was any need to offer such a feature up to this point.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        I’ll have to try my Bluetooth headphones with my Dot…the headphones haven’t required a PIN to connect to my Fire TV, of course, so maybe they won’t require one for the Dot…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      I use our Dot, when I want music from it (which isn’t common) through an iClever speaker, as I’ve linked.

      Amazon says, “Connects to speakers or headphones through Bluetooth or 3.5 mm stereo cable” for the Dot. That may mean only cables for headphones, but it might be worth asking Amazon…

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