Siri, meet Alexa.
Amazon is introducing a voice-recognition service called Amazon Echo that comes with a speaker-like wireless device just in time for the holiday shopping season.
Responding to voice commands after the “wake word” Alexa, the device offers updates on news and weather and provides hands-free voice control for Amazon services such as Prime Music. It has an accompanying app for tablets and smartphones.
Amazon has been expanding its offerings for members of its $99 annual Prime loyalty club and other Amazon shoppers. It launched a smartphone, the Fire, earlier this year, and has offered a set-top video streaming device, a streaming video service, grocery delivery, music streaming and original TV shows such as the critically acclaimed “Transparent” starring Jeffrey Tambor.
The Echo, its latest offering, is available by email request only and costs $199, or $99 for Amazon Prime members. It competes with other voice-recognition services such as Apple’s Siri.
“Amazon is the first to put a persistent microphone interface in your home, a listening and learning service that is ready to hear your every command,” said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. “Sure, it doubles as a connected speaker and some people will end up buying it for that, but the Echo will only achieve its real purpose when you start asking it questions, having it complete tasks for you -- especially shopping tasks -- just the way Apple hopes its users will interact with Apple Watch.”
Users can’t buy anything through Echo yet except for digital music from Amazon Music. The Wi-Fi only device can play music from Amazon or other music services like iTunes and Spotify. It stores information in Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc.’s in-house cloud service, Amazon Web Services.
It can also answer common questions like how to spell words, give weather reports, set alarms and timers and grab information from Wikipedia.
Amazon shares closed up 12 cents at $296.64. The stock has lost about 25 percent this year.