03 Feb Amazon Expands Its Lead With Smart CE Devices At CES 2020
Last week I attended CES 2020 in Las Vegas. The annual consumer electronics extravaganza provides an opportunity for companies both big and small to unveil their latest gadgets and solutions. You really can’t talk about consumer electronics these days without talking about Amazon, who took the space by storm over the past decade with its Alexa voice assistant, Kindle, Echo and more recently with its Fire TV solutions.
This past fall, I attended the company’s “Ask Alexa” event at its Seattle Day 1 headquarters (see my coverage here). There, it unveiled several new devices such as the Echo frames (smart glasses), Echo Loop (a smart ring), Echo buds (earbuds), and Echo Flex (a wall socket plugin to extend Alexa functionality to different rooms). These announcements whet my appetite, and I was looking forward to what the company had in store for CES 2020. Let’s take a look at what all was announced.
Stoking the “Fire”
The bulk of Amazon’s announcements this year centered around its Fire TV offering. Specifically, Amazon announced significant expansion of its Fire TV Edition program, designed to enable 3rd party device makers to integrate Fire TV functionality into their products. The first Fire TV Edition smart TV debuted at CES 2017—since then the program has grown exponentially to include over 50 different Smart TV and soundbar models, from the likes of Insignia, Toshiba, Grundig, JVC, Onida, Anker, and many more. For that matter, Amazon promises Fire TV’s ranks will grow to over 150 models, across 10 countries, by the end of 2020.
Back in September, Amazon announced its first Fire TV-equipped soundbar, the Nebula Soundbar, developed in conjunction with Anker Innovations. Amazon announced at CES 2020 that it is following the Nebula up with the Alto 8+ Soundbar-Fire TV Edition from TCL. The company also shared that it is collaborating with a growing number of soundbar manufacturers, including Polk Audio and Tonly. Additionally, it says new capabilities will be coming to its Fire Edition soundbars by the end of the year, including support for Dolby Atmos, HDMI switching, far field voice control, and compatible device control.
CES 2020 also brought the announcement that Fire TV functionality is coming to automakers. Amazon announced a partnership with BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which it says will enable passengers to access content and TV shows stored locally or recorded via Fire TV Recast. Amazon says Fire TV content will be available in car via hands-free Alexa access or touch screen interface. Fire TV content will be available through the car’s Wi-Fi or LTE connection, or from a mobile hotspot or additional WAN-enabled devices. Crucial, in my view, is the fact that it will offer offline playback capabilities—this will be a game changer for cross country road trips when you’re frequently passing in and out of signal.
Amazon also announced Fire TV Edition for Operators, which it says will bring Fire TV to television and telecommunication operators. According to the company, this comes on the heels of a successful pilot partnerships with Verizon in the U.S. and Tata Sky in India. Amazon says that the Fire TV Edition for Operators will enable these businesses to select the best solution for their specific customer and business needs.
The last expansion of Fire TV announced at CES 2020 was Fire TV Edition – Certified Solutions Providers, which the company believes will allow it to build a scalable, global smart TV program. Basically, this solution enables Amazon partners to collaborate with various certified solutions providers around the world for manufacturing and assembly, in order to accelerate the development of new Fire TV edition devices. At CES the company revealed that Skyworth is the most recent ODM to join the ranks—together, the companies will provide a turnkey solution that TV brands can leverage to build 4K and FHD TVs with Fire TV functionality. This wide-ranging solution includes reference designs, schematics, boards, self-service tools, software customizations, and customized industrial design and hardware options. In the new Fire TV realm of automotive, mentioned earlier, Amazon announced it is partnering with system integrators Garmin and VOXX Automotive for in-vehicle entertainment. Lastly, for operators, Amazon announced a partnership with the National Cable Television Cooperative, which it says will enable the cooperative’s members to provide their customers with inexpensive Fire TV streaming media players.
Amazon’s Fire TV continues to grow impressively, and these various expansions announced at CES 2020 should only further accelerate this. In the next several years we’re going to be seeing Fire TV in even more TVs, soundbars, and now, automobiles. The ability for operators to deliver these devices to their customers inexpensively and in a customized manner should also grow Fire TV’s footprint within homes. Amazon’s domination of the smart home is well underway, with no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Note: Moor Insights writers and researchers contributed to this analysis.