Source:cnet.com

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is clearly pushing hard into the hardware market, and the unveiling of “Echo” signals the latest push in the segment, AppleInsider stated in an article. Echo is more like a speaker that in addition to speaking, listens and learns. The device has been compared with Siri from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). It is seen that the end-game in Echo is to expand the company’s Web retail business. However, others also believe that Echo could be a solution looking for a problem to solve because of the manner in which it somehow replicates what is already on the market.

The unveiling of Echo was devoid of much fanfare, but Amazon didn’t fail to highlight the key features of its stationary home device. Like Google Now from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Cortana from Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Siri from Apple, Echo supports online queries. The device is activated by a keyword, which is set by default as “Alexa”. The device can fetch Web information, stream music and update a list of what the user wants to do. It can also set alarms.

Echo is a device so smart enough that it can listen to user commands while still streaming music. The device is also bundled with a far-field microphone that can detect commands across the room while also being able to cancel noise. For music streaming, Echo can connect with Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. As if that is not enough, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) said the device supports audio streaming from mobile through Bluetooth.

With Echo, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is obviously trying to extend its reach and hold of the digital lives of the consumers. The company already has a set-top box, tablet and smartphone, all of which are first-party hardware devices.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s latest virtual assistant, Echo, asks for $199, but Amazon Prime members can get it at $99. However, consumers are required to request for the invitation to buy the product.

Echo is priced at $199 (U.S.), Amazon said on its website Thursday. Members of Amazon’s Prime fast-shipping program can purchase the gadget for $99 for a limited period. Consumers need to request an invitation to get the product. The release date for Echo has not yet been officially communicated.