Amazon Echo out now in UK, can Google and Apple keep up?

28 Sep 2016

Amazon’s popular smart home device Amazon Echo has finally received a release outside the US, on sale in the UK from today (28 September) and hitting the German market this day next month.

The battle for home assistance supremacy is heating up, with Amazon Echo’s head start soon to come under serious pressure from Google Home and, soon, Siri’s iOS popularity.

Echo’s lengthy US existence had not, until today, seen Amazon’s showpiece gadget sold officially in Europe until now.

Amazon Echo

Delighted to be in UK

With a now well-established machine learning underpinning the device, the Echo’s cylindrical presence in US homes has gradually increased, as its language processing capabilities improved.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Echo and Alexa to the UK,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

“Millions across the US have already fallen in love with Alexa. And, predictably, she’s even more likeable with a British accent.”

Alexa – Amazon’s equivalent to Siri – takes orders for products, plays music, compiles to-do lists, sets alarms, updates users of traffic and weather, and answers random queries in the style of an omnipresent Google search engine.

Google, for its part, is set to release its own house-based assistance on 4 October at a special device event.

Company CEO Sundar Pichai feels home assistance is the future for technology companies, after he revealed that one-in-five queries on Google are performed via speech. Home was originally revealed at Google’s I/O in May.

Home and iHome?

Home will presumably be released in the US first, as per Amazon Echo, but just as the latter hits Europe, the race to smarten up our homes is really heating up.

This is because Apple’s response is also due soon, with Bloomberg reporting that it’s “pressing ahead” with its version to rival Echo.

Bloomberg claims it has been in the works for two years now, with the unnamed device (I bet it’s iHome) “designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation.”

Earlier today, Google announced a vast improvement to its machine learning capabilities, primarily funnelled into its Google Translate tool.

Reducing errors by up to 85pc, the Google Neural Machine Translation system is seen as a “significant milestone” by the company.

If it can be incorporated into Google Home, then a real three-way battle in the smart home industry between Apple, Amazon and Google may be almost upon us.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic