Amazon looks to expand the reach of Alexa and Echo at annual device unveiling

Amazon looks to expand the reach of Alexa and Echo at annual device unveiling

Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice president of Devices & Services, introduces a new Alexa feature at the 2019 in-person version of the event. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon will hold its annual Devices & Services unveiling on Thursday morning, a virtual version of a fall tradition in which the company typically shows its newest Echo speakers and other Alexa-enabled devices.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Pacific time, and we’ll be updating this post with news and analysis as it unfolds.

If the recent pattern continues, the lineup at the event this year will reflect the tech giant’s efforts to expand the reach of its virtual assistant and smart speakers beyond the home. Alexa-enabled devices introduced at this event last year included a smart ring, eyeglasses and wireless earbuds.

But the Amazon Sidewalk neighborhood wireless network may be a better indication of the company’s ambitions for its devices business. Sidewalk, introduced at the same event last year, is an intermediate-range shared network that leverages low-bandwidth, wireless spectrum to provide connectivity to small Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart lights, weather stations, trackers and sensors in places such as mailboxes and gardens.

“There are a lot of things where Bluetooth is way too short-range, WiFi is way too high-power, and so to have something that’s still low-power, but that has much longer range is really a gap in the marketplace,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in off-the-cuff remarks to reporters after the event last year. “People don’t even realize yet how important that intermediate range is going to be.”

Sidewalk is slated to launch later this year. Amazon announced Tile as the first third-party Sidewalk device earlier this week, along with new technical details about the network.

Amazon has been able to maintain a sizeable lead over Google and other companies in the smart speaker market, with about 70% market share, according to research released in February by eMarketer.

“Over time, we’ll see slowing growth in the number of smart speakers as people turn to voice assistants built into other things within homes, vehicles and on-the-go,” said Victoria Petrock, a principal analyst at eMarketer, in a statement at the time. “Amazon’s next challenge will be to maintain its dominance in these other environments as well.”

Check back for updates as the event gets under way.

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