When I first saw the Amazon Echo Show I had two (negative) gut reactions
As I suggest in my upcoming book ‘The Antifragile Grid’ (pre-order), the smart home — a home plastered with all sorts of Internet of Things devices that relay information to a cloud based service provider somewhere out there - is the next platform for capturing context, attention and intent. Like the internet enabled computer and the smartphones before it, the smart home enables the tech companies to harness all the information they can about you and I, to sell to the highest bidder (or in the case of Amazon, to get us to buy more products). And we know that ‘he who owns the customer (home), captures the prize’. Amazon, with all it’s smart home products, is trying to capture the home by focusing on convenience. But why? First we have to understand the possible areas of value creation in the smart home.
Adding the words connected or smart in front of the word home obscures the fact that the things that truly matter to us, in said homes, are
The competition to provide smart safety in our homes is stiff; Ring, August, Nest Protect and a slew of other products are duking it out. Comfort, a more nebulous concept, is being provided through devices like Cree’s dimmable smart lightbulbs (and other smart lightbulbs), Sonos speakers etc. Convenience is where Amazon found their niche and snuck in with the Echo (and all it’s variations). As much as we can achieve all these things with IoT technology, the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in is that these devices now seem to be causing more clutter than addressing the needs we have. We now live in a world where a search for ‘Smart home’ on Amazon yields ~152k results.
For Amazon to add another frivolous and non-innovative product to that list smacks of something more than just a push for thin-margins-on-another-device. Or is it? What is the point here? Amazon is a company that has proven time and time again that it gets the long-term strategic approach to business. So there is something here…
The best strategies are simple and obvious. But only in hindsight. Amazon’s strategy here might be one of two. Either one, when the story gets told, will probably show cleverness that was obvious and impressive.
I have little insight into what the strategy is here, I’m not in and know no one in Amazon leadership, but what I do know is that this has more to do with a competitive strategy than game-changing technological innovation. Because Amazon’s Echo Show is really just an iPad with voice control. The same can be said about Amazon’s Look and Dash. There must be a strategic reason for releasing these products at the pace Amazon seems to have been doing over the last few months.
One other thing I do know is that, despite my protestations above, I’ll probably end up with the Echo Show in my home. Just like I ended up with the Echo…
If you liked this you should check out ’10 Startup Lessons from 40 Books I read in 2017', ‘9 Books To Boost Your Understanding of Technology Systems’ and my book 40 Semi-Obvious Startup Lessons.
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