Book-selling, Whole Foods-buying, city-enkindling Amazon is back in the news, this time for a surprise presentation in Seattle, where it apparently just made a slew of huge announcements. The biggest among them may be a new version of its Echo smart speaker, now priced at $99 instead of $179.99.
This second-generation Echo, now available for preorder, features a shorter design, dedicated bass tweeter, and six shell options, ranging from fabric to a wooden or silver finish. It can also make free calls to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and allow multi-room audio, if purchased in a three-pack for $50 per device.
Other new products announced include: a $150 Echo Plus smart home hub that comes with a free Philips Hue lightbulb; $130 Echo Spot smart alarm clock; a new $70 Fire TV with 4K; a $35 Echo Connect device for making phone calls; and $20 Echo Buttons for playing games.
Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant service powering all of the Echo products, has become an industry standard by now, finding integrations in everything from fridges to cars. At today’s event, Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices at Amazon, said the company has over 5,000 people working on Alexa.