Earlier this week, Amazon debuted its Dash buttons in the UK, Germany and Austria for instant product reorders, and now it is gearing up for yet another new launch in Europe — one that could be a biggie: the launch of Echo, its voice-controlled speaker and smart home hub, for the first time outside of the U.S..
Earlier today, Amazon sent out a typically cryptic invite to an event in London on Wednesday, September 14.
There’s almost nothing on it apart from the event’s date, time and place.
We contacted Amazon to ask about the details, and we have not received a response.
But since it went out, several people have been speculating that this will be the launch of the Echo in the UK. Others (see: Stuff; Engadget) have even managed to get Alexa to tell them that a trip to London is on its bucket list, when they asked what was happening on September 14).
Alexa wouldn’t give me the same answer but did let me know, when I asked what was on its bucket list, that it was “London, and a bucket.” (hmmm) However, there are also other clues that point to an imminent launch date:
Visual cues: Yes, the invitation doesn’t have a single bit of copy on it that gives away what the topic of the day will be, but there is something else important on there: a bluish-greenish glow from the top of the box. Looking a bit closer at that glow, it bears some similarity to orb on the marketing materials that Amazon already uses for the Echo elsewhere:
Other possibilities for what gets launched could be something new in Amazon’s Fire tablet range, or it could be a TV-themed launch, perhaps around the Grand Tour show that Amazon is about to launch with the three former British faces of the highly popular Top Gear. But following the colors, up to now the Fire range’s marketing has focused on orange hues; the Grand Tour seems to be following a red and white scheme; and Prime TV is more green.
Another element that seems relevant to me is that if we’re being invited to an event about a device that does away with reading and typing/tapping and is all about speaking and listening, then having no words on the invite also fits with the aural and oral theme.
Talent: Amazon Echo has based a large part of its development in Cambridge, UK, where the operation includes tech and talent it picked up when it acquired the startup Evi a few years ago, and works, among other things, on natural language processing technologies. Amazon’s employment listings have often given a strong hint as to what the company is working on. And currently, nearly every job opening in the UK is related to Amazon Echo and Alexa.
The Dash context: While Amazon’s Dash service for instant product orders operates independently of the Echo and Alexa, people have highlighted how the two services — which launched in the U.S. in close proximity time-wise — go hand-in-hand.
Karen Webster of Pymnts describes Dash and Echo as “alter-egos” in the home, where one is about controlling your smart devices from the outside (the Echo) and the other is about controlling from the inside (Dash, helping you instantly reorder the consumables that make those products work). In that context, it’s interesting that Dash finally made it to these shores just this week.
Bigger trends: The Echo has been a surprise hit for Amazon, which has reportedly been going all-in on building out and developing the device further.
Amazon bullishly believes there is more untapped demand to be met. According to a report in The Information, the company is projecting 3 million in sales of the device in 2016, with that ramping up to 10 million in 2017, making Amazon a billion-dollar hardware company.
There is some anecdotal evidence that there’s been demand for this in the UK for years already. And as another English-speaking country, the UK would be a logical next market for the device after its debut in the U.S. ahead of Amazon releasing versions of Alexa, the voice-response service, that speak other languages besides English.
There are some red herrings in the mix, too. This link references a rumor of a supposed launch of Echo on September 16, which turned out to be a placeholder for a different product altogether (an album called Echoes by the Young Guns). Are the other clues red herrings as well? We may only know for sure a week and a half from now.