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Amazon yesterday announced two additions to its line of voice-controlled household assistants, referred to as "Alexa," which started with the Echo and became a hit last year.

They are the Tap, described in the New York Times as "a slimmer, shorter, portable version of the Echo ... Rather than requiring an electrical wall connection, the Tap runs off a rechargeable battery. It connects with phones and the Internet through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The Tap acts as an ordinary wireless speaker for a phone, but it also provides Alexa on the go. People can ask about weather and traffic, ask for the news, tell it to play a song from a streaming service, or do any one of dozens of other tasks. The device, which will begin shipping at the end of the month, will sell for about $130."

And then there is "the Echo Dot, essentially an Echo without that device’s powerful speaker. The Dot, which will sell for about $90, looks like a hockey puck, and is meant to provide Alexa’s voice functions for existing speaker systems. The Dot connects to those speakers either through a wire or over Bluetooth; after that, it functions as another Echo."

The Seattle Times writes that "the release of these new products underscores how prominent the voice-controlled interface is becoming for the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon Echo has been something of a hit, outselling all other home audio speakers on Amazon’s website."

And The Verge website notes that " while we’ve all been busy looking down at our smartphones, Amazon has slowly been filling in the pieces of the smart home puzzle, the smart life puzzle. The original Echo is now a kind of spine for Alexa in the home; the Fire TV and Echo Dot are part of the peripheral nervous system; and the new portable Tap speaker is the first attempt at giving Alexa legs to roam. It’s simultaneously amazing, and terrifying (if you consider the security implications)."

And there's one other thing about the new products. They only are available for the moment to people who already own an Echo.
KC's View:
One of the interesting observations in the Verge piece was that if Amazon had been successful with its Fire Phone, it might not have been as focused on Alexa's prospects. It learned a lot from its disastrous smart phone entry, and those learnings are being integrated into the Echo and its progeny.

I'm looking forward to the Alexa app, so I can interact with Alexa via my iPhone. That strikes me as the inevitable next step ... and it'll expand Amazon's shopping ecosystem even farther...