Imagine Steve Jobs walking out onto the stage in January of 2007, holding up the never-before-seen iPhone, and saying, "It's a phone!" Of course, he didn't do that. Instead, Jobs boasted of launching three new products at once: a wide-screen iPod with touch controls, a mobile phone, and an Internet communications device. Since then, the iPhone has become so much more. It's early days, so I won't compare the potential of the voice-controlled device to the iPhone. But the Echo, backed by an artificial intelligence platform named Alexa, is much more than just another Bluetooth speaker.
Analysis Huawei's upcoming launch of a smartphone incorporating Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant will mark a new phase in one of the most important battles for the modern internet experience. Voice-activated assistants - which use powerful AI engines to deliver detailed, context-aware and personalized answers to users' questions – are the way in which web giants hope to place themselves at the heart of a user's whole range of activities, whether they are in their smart home, connected car, at work or on the phone. Apple Siri kicked off the race, though the company seems to have lost its early momentum in voice interfaces – rapidly taking over from touch/text for many uses. Google Now and Microsoft Cortana added new levels of AI to the digital assistant category, but then Amazon launched its Fire Phone, whose defining technology was the retailer's own AI-driven assistant, Alexa. However, the Fire Phone flopped, and it seemed Alexa might have died with it, until the technology reappeared in Amazon's Echo home hub, which has unexpectedly seized the initiative back from its rivals, leaving Apple and Google to announce hasty moves into the home hub market last year.