Alexa at a Crossroads

Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices are getting to a point of ubiquity. Walk into any home in America and there’s a good chance you’ll see an Amazon Echo device inside. And this doesn’t go for just tech-savvy millennials; this writer for The FR has an 85-year-old aunt who happily asks Alexa to turn on her favorite radio station to listen to some Al Jolson. 

But exactly how successful, business-wise, is Amazon’s line of Echo devices? It’s an interesting question with some unclear answers. 

Echo devices are often much less expensive than Apple’s Homepod — and that’s because Amazon’s strategy isn’t necessarily to make money off the sale of the device itself, but to use it to bring the customer further into the “Amazon Ecosystem.” Indeed, the head of Amazon’s hardware business told CNBC, “The goal is to make money when ‘customers use the products, not just when they buy them.’”

It’s an interesting strategy, and not surprising from Amazon, which has built its kingdom by being a “platform” rather than just selling specific pieces of technology.