The company plans to release the new Echo by next year, according to people familiar with the product. Prototypes of the cylindrical speaker are wider than the current Echo to squeeze in additional components including at least four tweeters, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.
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My instinct has always been that Amazon isn't really that interested in making money in the high quality speaker market, their goal is to be dominate in the voice assistant market. This is why they've pushed hard to get the cheap echo dots into homes as well as license out Alexa to other speaker makers so liberally.
So why build this new better speaker? Because they know there is a segment of the market that will opt to get a Google Max or Homepod for the sound quality, and don't quite trust Alexa in some other speaker brands product. They don't want you to speaker quality to be the reason you choose Google over Alexa, even if your logic may not be 100% sound. My theory anyway.
As far as impact on Sonos sales goes...hard to say. In some respect it could be good as it will bring consumers into the higher end speaker market who may never have really considered it previously. Some of them may consider this 'super echo' and end up buying a Sonos One instead. Perhaps the difference between what a Sonos system and Alexa echo only system offer will be greater highlighted. Differences in multiroom features, audio source capabilities, TV compatibility, choice in voice assistant, and smart home features.
The article also mention two other potential items. Alexa controlled headphones sound interesting, and would be particularly interesting to see if it operates off wifi (no phone required) or bluetooth. The robot...need more information on why I would need that in my life. Having Alexa alone is not enough as it will surely be cheaper to put echo dots in every room of the house.
If that be the case, it should not be a surprise. If Sonos will also get into bed with the Amazon competition, Amazon isn't going to cooperate with Sonos except to the extent it meets their interests/needs.
This is a classic business war game in progress between an all integrated in house approach versus making agnostic speakers that will listen to the voice commands of any of the all integrated players/service providers. A bit like the old computer wars that were won by the PC+Microsoft model that defeated the all integrated Apple approach for their computers. It will be interesting to see who wins, with the higher level of challenges posed by smart homes/automation that is much more than just voice command and control for music. Because of this higher level of complexity one cannot assume that what won the battle for Microsoft will work here as well.
It will make nice little case study in the years to come, if MBA schools still use case studies in future.