Chalk this one up purely to speculation, but there have been severial signs recently that something significant is about to be released related to Amazon’s Alexa voice-assistant and Echo speaker. It could be business as usual for the Seattle based retailer, but here’s why I think something is brewing.
Super Bowl Ad
Amazon just revealed that their first-ever Super Bowl commercial wil be for the Amazon Echo. Super Bowl ads have a long reputation of being the place where companies launch new products, so it seems unlikely Amazon’s most expensive commercial to date will advertise a 1 year old product as opposed to something new.
Rumored Portable Echo
The Wall Street Journal has reported that people familiar with the plans have said Amazon is getting ready to release a portable version of the Amazon Echo. It’s clear a new device is almost inevitable, but while new hardware is great, what’s more interesting is that new software and features seem to also be on the horizon.
Echo Software Update
Earlier this week, Amazon pushed a new software update to the Echo. This is the first update in over 4 months. While Amazon has been releasing new features for Alexa and the Echo on a weekly basis, they have not required an actual device software update due to the Echo’s cloud-based nature. Amazon says the new software update includes “general improvements and performance enhancements,” but there’s a good chance the update is setting the stage for significant new features that couldn’t be added by only updating Amazon’s cloud infrastructure for the Echo.
Ever since Amazon opened the Echo and Alexa to third-party developers in June of last year, they’ve steadily grown the products footprint. In the last 30 days, the Alexa developer push has been stepped up with new weekly webinars, a new free 6 part online course, and workshops in New York and Boston. Additionally, Amazon just added powerful new developer features, like the ability to link third-party accounts with Alexa. The increased focus on developers may be further indication that something new is coming.
Each of the four indicators on their own don’t necessarily point to new hardware and features, but the fact that all four have appeared within a couple weeks of each other tells me that, by the end of the Super Bowl on February 7th, we’ll have seen the next major step in the evolution of Amazon’s voice-assistant.