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Amazon announced a number of new products in the Alexa voice technology system yesterday, including:

• Echo Plus, which “has a built-in smart home hub to easily connect your smart devices—set up and start controlling lights, locks, and more in minutes—just $149.99, with a Philips Hue smart lightbulb included while supplies last.”

• Echo Spot, which is about the size of an alarm clock and which “delivers everything you love about Alexa with a smaller design and the added convenience of a circular screen so that Alexa can show you things. The all-new Echo Spot is $129.99.”

• Echo Connect, which serves to “connect your home phone to your compatible Echo device to call any phone number, using just your voice … Echo Connect uses your existing home phone service to make and receive calls.”

• A new Echo, which features a modified design and better speaker.

In addition, Amazon announced that it has struck a deal that will have Alexa technology available in every BMW and Mini starting in mid-2018.

According to the announcement, the mobile availability will allow drivers to “ask Alexa in-car to get directions, call a business, play music or Audible content, control your smart home, check the news, and more while you're on the go - without downloading a separate app. Customers will also have access to tens of thousands of Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, NPR, and TED Talks, among others. For many requests, Alexa will provide voice responses paired with visual cards on BMW's and MINI's control display, such as to do lists or weather forecasts.”

CNBC has as related story pointing out that “Amazon has quietly assembled a team of over 5,000 people working on Echo and the Alexa ecosystem … That’s more people working on Alexa products than consumer device makers Fitbit and GoPro have combined. Fitbit has a little over 1,700 employees, while GoPro has about 1,500.” The story notes that Amazon has close to 400,000 employees,, so “Alexa and Echo represent a tiny portion of the entire company. But rapid hiring growth reflects Amazon's willingness to invest heavily in expanding the Alexa voice platform. That number is likely to keeping increasing. According to Amazon's jobs site, there are almost 1,500 openings for jobs related to Alexa and Echo.”

And, in one other related story, Reuters writes that “in a rare public feud between large technology companies,” Amazon said that “its Echo Show devices could no longer play videos from YouTube because the site’s parent, Google, stopped supporting the service.” There is, Amazon said, “no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

Google responded: ““We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms … Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”
KC's View:
I am going to find the lack of YouTube videos on my Echo Show to be annoying, since I’ve really enjoyed watching recipes being prepared and then copying them; this is a big part of its functionality, and I hope they resolve this issue soon.

As for the rest of it … wow. There is a lot about these developments that I like, though I’m wondering where I’m going to put the new devices since we already have an Alexa-based machine in almost every room of the house. But I’m also beginning to feel a little bit like Amazon is the Borg, they’re assimilating every part of my life, and resistance is futile…