Amazon’s quest to become the next Apple –

“What we’ve done here with Amazon is to offer a huge opportunity to add what you do outside the car in your personal life into the vehicle,” says Thom Brenner, head of digital services at BMW. The in-car version of Alexa will connect to devices in an owner’s home to let them perform tasks while they drive, such as opening the garage door, turning on the heating and starting the laundry. “This is really the start of a new era. People can take their favourite capabilities and Alexa skills and use them in the car,” says Brenner.

One of the major challenges for Amazon will be engaging customers with its services once they leave the house. As a first mover in the voice assistant space, the firm has an early advantage when it comes to smart home products. Almost 36m Americans use voice-activated speakers at least once a month, according to research from eMarketer, with 70pc of those doing so through an Echo. But its products, which connect to a mains power supply, are designed for inside.

“Clearly Amazon is leading the connected home and is poised to expand,” says Goertz. “But the minute you step outside you lose contact with Alexa and that is something I think Amazon will be working on next. That’s where the competition can still effectively challenge them.”

There is a possibility that Amazon will need to release its own smartphone if it is to maintain a competitive edge against other technology giants. But its Fire phone, released in 2014, flopped. “The Fire phone was just short of a disaster. That was not a successful product,” says Goertz. “Today Amazon is trying to reach smartphone users by having Alexa embedded [in apps]. So it is somewhat present, but it is still not the same experience.” He predicts Amazon could try launching a phone again, as early as next year.

That may not be soon enough. This week, Google is expected to unveil a new generation of smartphones and smart speakers that could see it catch up with Amazon. Later this year, Apple, which retains more clout than any rival, will release the HomePod, a smart speaker rival to the Echo. Amazon has the first-mover advantage, but if it is to define an industry in the same way the iPhone did, it cannot afford to rest on its laurels.


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