The last Wednesday morning, Amazon has gone on a hardware rampage, and they released four new Alexa-powered smart toys and a lot of other new accessories.
This is a sign of the Amazon’s relentless pace — that happened this year, they have launched the Echo Look (a voice-controlled camera) and the Echo Show (a voice-controlled tablet/video-phone), both of which constituted major new product categories.
The question now that everyone wants the answer to is Will it work or not?
Will someone want to buy this gadget, a small alarm clock and has a camera and stays in your bedside? Do any of you want the Echo Buttons, that act like a single-button video-game controllers? And how well will it profit from these, how big is the market for them?
Competitors to Amazon should be afraid of this question or more from the answer because in the end it really does not matter.
I always go back to what CEO Jeff Bezos said after the high-profile flameout of the Fire Phone, Amazon’s disastrous attempt to compete with Android and iPhone. Make no mistake, people lost their jobs, and Amazon was forced to rethink its hardware approach. And yet Bezos seemed unfazed by the whole affair.
“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now,” Bezos said in an interview with The Washington Post last year. “And I am not kidding. And some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”
Right now, Amazon Echo and the Alexa voice assistant look like big hits. And yet it’s still very early in the market — “Day 1,” in Amazon lingo. Anything could happen. Google Assistant, a competitor to Amazon’s Alexa, could come from behind and squeeze out Amazon. The almighty Apple is getting ready to barge into the market. It’s even possible that a startup comes out of nowhere to win.
If that happened, don’t be surprised if Bezos pulled the cord, killed Alexa — salvaging whatever tech it could for future products — and moved on to the next thing.
I’m not saying that will happen, just that it could. If Amazon can’t win at voice assistants, it’ll move on, just as it did in phones. After all, it makes its money from retail.
And that means Amazon has nothing to lose. If Echo and Alexa dominate, Amazon owns a huge chunk of the future. If they don’t, Amazon is always willing to cut its losses. So in the meantime, it can afford to take risks, put Alexa into experimental new devices — no matter how seemingly wacky — and try everything and anything to see what sticks.
All of which is to say: I don’t envy Google, Samsung, Apple, or any other company that has to compete with Amazon. There’s nothing more dangerous than a competitor with nearly bottomless resources and nothing to lose.