The positives:

  • The device is very well designed, attractive, and with the right ‘heft’
  • Amazon’s Echo nails the living room voice recognition problem - it understands you immediately, at reasonable volumes, at reasonable distances, and responds perfectly promptly.
  • The voice synthesis is top-notch and very human.
  • Playing music, converting metrics, finding facts, adding items to your todo or shopping list seem to work very very well.

The negatives:

  • The types of questions you can ask it feel very limited as compared to Siri - lots of questions Siri can answer get punted as a “bing search to the echo [companion] app”
  • The companion app (at least on iOS) is a little wonky - it’s partially a web-view, and it shows a tad too often
  • Alexa loves to talk about Prime - “Playing [Song] from Prime Music[tm]” - that’s gonna get old quick
  • Advanced features require deeper Amazon echo-system buy-in (“Send a VoiceCast to your Amazon Fire Tablet!”)
  • No ability (yet) to wire her into your other apps or home - it’s Prime all the way
  • Minor grievance: It’s Amazon! It’s Echo! It’s Alexa! Prime Music! Bing Search! She feels a little too brandy and not enough just “Alexa”.

Quick thoughts:

Amazon has a very nice device that communicates surprisingly naturally - it’s earned a spot in the living room. If Amazon isn’t too dogmatic about forcing their Prime ecosystem NOW (as opposed to later) it feels as if this could be the point of control for a connected home.

Jeffy B: I encourage you to allow an ecosystem to build around the Echo, and use that to gain your foothold in a post-PC space you actually have a shot of being a major player in. 

Amazon team: nicely done, I look forward to using this more in the coming weeks, and most certainly to integrations to the rest of my home.