What We Learned From Amazon’s Big Hardware Announcements

Smart ovens, headphones, jewelry — and even smart eyeglasses — hint at Alexa’s future and more.

Person Hands Opening Mailbox To Remove Newspaper

Image source: Getty Images

Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) held an event on Sept. 25, and it had some pretty big new releases ready. The company showed off 15 new products, and it gave tech investors a glimpse of where Amazon is headed.

Amazon’s business is about more than just hardware, but last Wednesday’s event made it clear that the company still sees a big role for hardware in its future.

Alexa is on the go

Amazon’s Alexa has always had a fair bit in common with Apple‘s Siri and Alphabet‘s Google Assistant. But there were also differences in use cases. End users tend to use voice assistants on mobile devices, a trend that seems extremely likely to be driven by Google Assistant and Siri, since so many smartphones come with those services on board. Alexa has thus far lived primarily on devices for the home, most notably Amazon’s Echo line of smart speakers.

Amazon’s big hardware event included the unveiling of several products that promise to make Alexa more mobile. Wireless headphones (the Echo Buds), smart eyeglasses (Echo Frames), and smart jewelry (Echo Loop, a smart ring) will give Alexa a free-range future. It will still be tough for Alexa to compete with Siri and Google Assistant in areas like navigation, but getting users accustomed to have Alexa on the go should help give it a foothold outside of the home.

Getting framed

Of the on-the-go Alexa devices, the Echo Frames are easily the most interesting. They’re extremely reminiscent of the infamous Google Glass, which had a rough public run and now exist only in an Enterprise Edition. Still, Amazon seems ready to give smart eyeglasses another chance — a limited chance, anyway.

Like Google did, Amazon is starting with a pilot program of sorts. Echo Frames will initially be available by invitation-only. They’ll cost just $179.99 by invitation and $249.99 thereafter, a far cry from Google Glass’ initial price of $1,500 (though it’s not yet clear if Amazon is selling its debut smart eyeglasses at a loss).

Amazon’s Alexa experiments don’t always have obvious near-term payoffs, and investors shouldn’t expect to see many Echo Frames on the street anytime soon. Still, this program suggests that Amazon sees a future for smart eyeglasses. Joining the race now may make a big difference if and when they become useful enough to go mainstream.

Chef Alexa

Amazon is clearly interested in taking Alexa outside of the home to compete with on-the-go assistants like the iOS-native Siri. But the company is also making sure not to cede the home space to competitors like Google, which offers an Echo-like smart speaker in Google Home and which already supports some smart-home features.

One advantage for Alexa in the smart-home space is that Amazon sells its own smart appliances and other smart-home products. It offers smart clocks, for instance, as well as smart microwaves. The company’s latest announcement included minor upgrades to some home goods and one big reveal: the Alexa smart oven. It’s Amazon’s newest, biggest, and priciest ($249.99) smart-home device yet, though it’s still a microwave-like countertop device rather than the sort of thing homeowners once bought at Sears.

Amazon seems to have a keen eye for where smart devices will be most useful: using a smart clock to set a timer or instructing a digital assistant to heat the oven for you both have a common-sense convenience that is lacking in, for instance, smart refrigerators that users can tweet from.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Stephen Lovely owns shares of Amazon and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple, short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, and long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

More on Tech Stocks

Lady holding mobile phone and shopping bags
Tech Stocks

The Ultimate Growth Stock to Buy With $1,000 Right Now 

Here's why Shopify (TSX:SHOP) could be the ultimate growth stock long-term investors want to consider at this current point in…

Read more »

Hands shaking over a business deal
Tech Stocks

Meet the Growth Stock I Can’t Stop Buying This Year

Topicus stock (TSXV:TOI) has been a top growth stock this year, with strong finances, a stable acquisition strategy, and more…

Read more »

grow dividends
Tech Stocks

Celestica Stock Is up 44% Since Earnings: What Investors Need to Know

Celestica continues to benefit from strong demand and production efficiencies, yet the stock remains undervalued.

Read more »

healthcare pharma
Tech Stocks

What’s Going on With WELL Health Stock?

WELL stock (TSX:WELL) made strong moves once again, with record earnings and even higher guidance for 2024.

Read more »

A shopper makes purchases from an online store.
Tech Stocks

3 Reasons to Buy Shopify Stock Right Now

Based on these three top reasons, Shopify (TSX:SHOP) stock appears undervalued to buy right now.

Read more »

stock research, analyze data
Tech Stocks

What’s Going on With Lightspeed Stock?

Lightspeed (TSX:LSPD) stock has been climbing once more but is still far from its three-digit share price. So, is it…

Read more »

Target. Stand out from the crowd
Tech Stocks

Missed Out on Nvidia Stock (Again)? Buy Descartes Instead

Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) stock soared yet again after earnings, passing the four-digit mark. But with shares so high, maybe this option…

Read more »

Group of people network together with connected devices
Tech Stocks

This Is the Best Overlooked AI Stock on the TSX Today

This AI stock has been a top growing in the last while, but remains overlooked despite its strong portfolio and…

Read more »