Amazon Makes Echo Smart Device Available To The Masses

Chris CrumTechnology

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Last year, Amazon unveiled Echo, its smart device that serves as a speaker and a virtual assistant. Until now, it's been available on an invitation basis, but on Tuesday, Amazon announced that it's now available to all customers.

You can now pre-order the device for $179.99, and it will begin shipping on July 14. It also has some new features.

"The customer response to Amazon Echo has been incredibly positive, and we’ve been working hard to build more as quickly as possible. We are grateful to our early customers for their incredible engagement and for providing us with invaluable feedback to help shape Echo as it evolves—with their help, we’ve been able to add features like Audible, Pandora, home automation, sports scores, calendar, and more," said Greg Hart, Vice President of Amazon Echo. "We’re excited to get Echo into the hands of even more customers and continue to invent new features and experiences."

With one new feature, users can use Echo to switch on a lamp, turn on a fan or heater, dim the lights, etc. thanks to integration with Belkin WeMo and Philips Hue products.

You can now pause and skip tracks, and gives tracks thumbs up and down on Pandora and listen to audiobooks from Audible. You can say, "Alexa, read my book" to do this. Alexa is the "brain" behind Echo, by the way. It also supports Whispersync for Voice so you can switch between reading and listening without losing your place.

There's new Google Calendar integration and the ability to re-order Prime-eligible products.

"If you’re low on kitchen supplies, want to restock on snacks, or need more rolls of duct tape for the garage, simply ask Echo to place an order for you," the company explains. "Echo uses your order history and can order the Prime-eligible item for you using your default payment and shipping settings. If Echo can’t find the requested item in your order history, it may suggest an item for your approval using Amazon’s Choice, which picks highly-rated, well-priced, Prime-eligible products."

You can create "if this then that" recipes using shopping and to-do lists, and use Echo to add items to Evernote, email your to-do list to your spouse, and add your list to your phone.

You can also use Echo to get sports scores and schedules and get traffic info.

Finally, there are personalized streaming music stations from Prime Music and customized news from more sources including The Economist, NPR Business, TMZ, and ESPN Radio via TuneIn.

A free SDK, which developers have already been using in private beta, will roll out later this year.

Now check out this parody of the device.

Image via YouTube

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.