Comparing Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri smart speakers

The smart home assistant race has been building to a fever pitch over the course of the last couple of years. Things really came to head this past two weeks, when Amazon, Google and Sonos all held big events highlighting their latest smart speaker plays, making the already busy field a heck of a lot more crowded.

The burgeoning category can be a tough one to navigate. A lot of picking the right speaker for your own needs comes down to your assistant of choice — that, in turn, has a lot to do with both feature sets and your own mobile operating system loyalties. Each has benefits and drawbacks — Amazon has cornered the home, Apple has done a good job in mobile and Google has straddled the two better than anyone else. And Microsoft, well, a lot of people own Windows computers, at least.

Things can be equally complex from a hardware standpoint, between first-party products and the increasing presence of third-parties like Sony, Sonos and JBL. Devices also run a pretty wide price gamut, from ~$50 to $300. Some focus on premium sound, some feature screens, and some even let you choose between multiple assistants.

Here’s a quick break down to help make navigating these waters seem a bit less treacherous.

[Infogram version] 

Source: TechCrunch

Here are all of Amazon’s new Echo gadgets

Amazon just announced about a million new Echo speakers at a surprise event today, ranging from an updated classic Echo, to an alarm-clock style Echo Spot model, to… a talking fish? Let’s run through them all

The new and improved Amazon Echo

Amazon’s main Echo is getting a refresh that make look an awful lot more like a Google Home thanks to an interchangeable fabric, metal, and wood covers. It’s a lot shorter than the original Echo, and features improved audio thanks to a dedicated tweeter, a down-firing woofer, and Dolby tuning. Amazon says voice recognition has been improved too.


The best part: It now starts at just $99. That gives Amazon a particular advantage over Apple’s HomePod and Sonos’ speakers, which start at $300 and $200, respectively. Of course, this says nothing about their respective sound quality, but for people simply looking for a decent wireless speaker with multi-room sound, the Echo could be an enticing option when it starts shipping next month.

Echo Plus


The Echo Plus looks a lot more like the original Echo, but its main trick is that it can act as a smart home hub, eliminating the need for yet another thing to plug into a wall any time you want to add a new IoT device, as well as any accompanying apps. It also features the enhanced sound and Dolby tuning, but will sell for $149, including a free Phillips Hue lightbulb for a limited time. It will go on sale next month and comes in black, white, and silver finishes.

Echo Spot

The Echo Show and Echo Dot apparently had a baby and called it Spot. The tiny little Echo features a 2.5-inch circular touchscreen that displays information you might’ve asked for, or can even work as a monitor for a home security system. A camera allows you to have video calls on the tiny screen, which I can imagine looking very cute but feeling pretty cumbersome.


Of course, it also just works as an Echo, featuring far-field microphones for your commands, and it comes with Bluetooth connectivity and a 3.5mm headphone jack to connect it to your existing sound system. The Echo Spot will sell for $130 and go on sale in the US in December. Pre-orders are open now.

Echo Connect


Amazon is increasingly trying to position its Echo devices as an all-around communications device, and the new Echo Connect lets you chime in to your existing landline. You can ask Alexa to call anyone on your contact list, and Alexa will announce people’s names out loud when they call you. It’s a small set of features, but at $35, it’s not too bad.

Echo Buttons


Amazon is apparently turning the Alexa into a party game AI too. Echo Buttons are, well, buttons that light up and can be used to play Alexa-based games like trivia or music games. Think of them like buzzer buttons, but for a game dictated by an artificial intelligence. They cost $20 bucks and come in a pair of two.  Amazon says the buttons are just the first of more Alexa-connected trinkets to come.

Amazon Reportedly Working on Smart Glasses With Integrated Alexa AI

Amazon is actively developing a pair of smart glasses with Alexa virtual assistant built in, the reported on Wednesday.

Designed like a regular pair of spectacles, the device will enable Alexa to be invoked by the wearer at any time and at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with Amazon’s plans.

The founder of Google Glass is said to be working on Amazon’s Alexa smart glasses

The company is reportedly including a bone-conduction audio system in the specs so that the wearer can hear Alexa’s voice without inserting headphones.

The founder of Google Glass, Babak Parviz, is said to have been working on the Alexa product since he was hired by Amazon in 2014. Earlier this year, Google re-introduced its Google Glass wearable headset after discontinuing production in 2016.

In addition, The Financial Times reports that Amazon is also working on a more conventional home security camera, and that one or both of these products may appear before the end of this year.

Previous reports have claimed that Amazon is working on a successor to its popular Echo connected smart speaker and plans to bring the device to market this year in time to compete with Apple’s HomePod, which is set to launch this December.

According to rumors that first surfaced in 2016, Apple is also working on several different kinds of smart glasses, with the main application of bringing augmented reality experiences to the wearer.

Reports this year suggest Apple’s glasses will connect wirelessly to the iPhone, much like the Apple Watch, and will display “images and other information to the wearer”.

Alexa can find ‘baby making’ music on Amazon’s streaming services

Amazon announced today that users of its streaming service Prime Music, which is free with a Prime membership, and its subscription-based Amazon Music Unlimited can now ask Alexa to find tunes appropriate for various activities.

As of now, over 500 different activity-based requests are supported including music for meditation, partying and even “getting pumped.” The new feature is available immediately to users with Alexa-enabled devices.

The new voice controls were geared towards activities that have been requested most often by Alexa users and listeners of Amazon’s music streaming services.

In the announcement, the company said that 27 percent of all activity requests come from users who want to relax. Meditation is the number one requested activity, with spa, party and dinner rounding off the top four.

Along with specific activities, users can also request a particular genre to go with it. Amazon includes the examples “Alexa, play classical music for sleeping,” “Alexa, play pop music for cooking,” and “Alexa, play baby making jazz music.”

Because nothing sets the mood like a your partner telling their virtual assistant to find a playlist suitable for baby making.

On its 20 year journey to becoming the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon has focused almost purely on consumers.

But in 2015, Jeff Bezos’s Seattle-headquartered tech giant decided that it needed to do a better job of tapping into the online business-to-business (B2B) market, which is worth £96 billion in the UK alone, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

It launched a new free-to-use business supplies marketplace called Amazon Business in the US and went on to launch the platform in Germany in December 2016, and the UK this April. 

Amazon Business is off to a promising start, according to Bill Burkland, head of Amazon Business in the UK.

“The US acquired over 400,000 businesses and a billion dollars in revenue for Amazon Business in its first year of business,” he said during an interview at the company’s London office, adding that there were 45,000 sellers on Amazon Business in the US by the end of the first year. 

“You can think about Amazon Business being for business customers what is for consumers,” Burkland continued. “It’s a marketplace where business customers can come and be confident that no matter that they’re looking for to operate their business, there’s a high probability they’ll be able to find it on Amazon.”

Amazon wants companies to go to Amazon Business to buy everything from new computers and A4 paper to toilet cleaner and power tools. There are currently over 100 million products listed on the marketplace, which can also be accessed by people outside the US, the UK, and Germany.

“A customer in any EU country can go onto, Amazon Business, and buy. Export is a big part of our business that is attractive for the seller community as well,” said Burkland.


How Amazon Business is different from

Amazon Business differs from Amazon’s consumer website in a number of areas. It offers VAT-free pricing and includes features that are specifically targeted at businesses such as a reporting and analytics suite that helps companies to track and limit spending. The entire product catalogue is available, but there are some extra products too.

Burkland said one county council in the UK recently signed up to Amazon Business to buy books, as you might expect, but it ended up buying everything from wheelbarrows to glitter.

Unlike, Amazon Business offers one day free shipping to customers when they spend over £30. Amazon Prime members who set up a business account can also take advantage of free shipping on Amazon Business.

The Amazon Business platform — yet to get any dedicated integration with Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant — has proved popular with small and medium sized businesses from the get go but Amazon is keen to get larger enterprises with thousands of staff making big, bulk buys on the too as they’re the real revenue drivers.

On the size of the overall business market, Burkland said: “It’s a big market segment. So we have a long way to go. It’s one where we think business customers will find value. And it’s one that we’re investing in heavily.” Burkland and his spokesperson said they were unable to provide any numbers that would illustrate how much Amazon is investing in Amazon Business.

Interestingly, Burkland said it doesn’t matter to Amazon whether businesses do their shopping through or Amazon Business.”We’re agnostic. We want to build a marketplace based upon customer feedback reflects what customers want. If they choose to use that, great. If they choose to use Amazon consumer, that’s fine.”

Amazon Business could become the next AWS

Amazon has several large businesses beyond its well-known ecommerce platform. It has a video streaming platform, a music streaming platform, a grocery delivery service, and an audiobook service. 

Burkland compared Amazon Business to Amazon’s enormous cloud company, Amazon Web Services, which hit over $12 billion (£9 billion) in revenue in 2016. “I think that in many ways Amazon Business is kind of following in those footsteps,” he said. 

AmazonIn order to become the next AWS, Amazon Business will need as many sellers as it can. In the UK, Amazon Business has successfully enticed stationary retailer Ryman onto the platform.

Burkland was unable to provide any figures for how Amazon Business is doing in the UK because it’s “still early days.” He said he expects to release some official numbers later this year and revealed that the company is planning to sponsor some events to help promote the brand. Amazon Business is also being marketed through email display ads but there’s no “Tube advertising or TV/radio yet.”

All of the engineering efforts for Amazon Business take place outside the UK but Amazon has hired dedicated sales, marketing, procurement and alliance teams for Amazon Business locally. 

“Amazon Business is part of the 5,000 job commitment that Amazon has made to new jobs or new hires in the UK this year,” said Burkland

AWS broadens its lineup of GPU instances with the new Nvidia Tesla M60 based G3 family.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched a new family of high performance Nvidia-based GPU instances.

The new “G3” instances are powered by Nvidia’s Tesla M60 GPUs, and succeed its former G2 instance, which had four four NVIDIA Grid GPUs and 1,536 CUDA cores.

As with G2, which launched in 2013, the new G3 instances are targeting applications that need huge parallel processing power, such as 3D rendering and visualization, virtual reality, video encoding, remote graphics workstation applications.

AWS is offering three flavors of the G3 instance, with one, two, or for GPUs. Each GPU has 8 GB of GPU memory, 2048 parallel processing cores, and a hardware encoder that supports up to 10 H.265 streams and 18 H.264 streams.

AWS notes that the G3 instances support Nvidia’s GRID Virtual Workstation, and are capable of supporting four 4K monitors.

AWS claims the largest G3 instance, the g3.16large, has twice the CPU power and eight times the host memory of its G2 instances. It has four GPUs, 64 CPUs, 488GB of RAM.

The virtual CPUs use Intel’s Xeon E5-2686v4 (Broadwell) processors. Its largest G2 instance featured 60GB RAM.

On-demand pricing for the G3 instances are $1.14 per hour for g3.4xlarge, $2.28 per hour for the g3.8xlarge, and $4.56 per hour for the g3.16xlarge. The instances are available only with AWS Elastic Block Storage, compared with the G2 instances, which are available with SSD storage.

The G3 instances are available in US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (N. California), AWS GovCloud (US), and EU (Ireland). AWS is planning to expand the offering to more regions in the coming months.

AWS has continued to broaden its lineup of GPU instances over the years. Back in 2013 it was pitching the G2 family for machine learning and molecular modeling, but these applications are now catered to with its P2 instances, which it launched in September.

The largest P2 instance offers 16 GPUs with a combined 192GB of video memory. They also feature up to 732 GB of host memory, and up to 64 vCPUs using custom Intel Xeon E5-2686 v4 Broadwell processors.

“Today, AWS provides the broadest range of cloud instance types to support a wide variety of workloads. Customers have told us that having the ability to choose the right instance for the right workload enables them to operate more efficiently and go to market faster, which is why we continue to innovate to better support any workload,” said Matt Garman, Amazon EC2 vice president.

Microsoft has also been beefing up on GPU instances for Azure customers. The company launched its NC-Series compute-focused GPU instances last year, offering up to four Nvidia Tesla M60 GPUs and 244GB RAM with 24 cores using Intel Xeon E5-2690 v3 (Sandy Bridge) processors.

In May it announced the forthcoming ND-series which use Nvidia Pascal-based Tesla P40 GPUs and an updated lineup of NC-series instances. The largest ND-series features 24 CPUs, four P40 GPUs, and 448GB RAM. The largest NC-series, the NC24rs_v2 features 24 CPUs, four Tesla P100 GPUs, and 448 GB RAM

Amazon is apparently considering a plan to provide app developers with transcripts of people’s conversations with their Alexa boxes.

We’re told the Bezos Bunch is mulling whether to change their developer policy to give the third-party coders who create Alexa “skills” app software the raw transcripts of what users say to Alexa.

As it stands, transcripts are not part of the non-identifiable data that Amazon today offers developers.

The thinking is that, by giving devs access to the actual words and phrases used by customers, they will be able to tweak the tools to better recognize and respond to commands, making the Alexa service as a whole better.

That would be of benefit to Amazon in its efforts to stave off the likes of Google Home, but would also pose major privacy concerns for customers, who would rightfully be taken aback at the idea that their personal conversations with the always-listening devices could be handed to third parties.

Privacy concerns with Alexa are nothing new. Last year, an Echo device was sought as a witness for eavesdropping on a suspected murder, and in May when Alexa calling features were enabled, users complained about the lack of any sort of screening feature for incoming calls.

This, perhaps, is why Amazon is being weirdly coy on the matter. When asked to confirm or deny this week’s rumors, an Amazon spokesperson fed The Register the following canned statement:

“When you use a skill, we provide the developer the information they need to process your request. We do not share customer identifiable information to third party skills without the customer’s consent.”

When asked whether the policy could be changed in the near future, Amazon declined to comment further.

There’s been a significant Amazon Kindle Paperwhite price drop today, just hours before the Amazon Prime Day deals kick off for a 30-hour stretch.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is $30 off today only, which means you’re paying $79.99 for the most popular Amazon e-reader, as opposed to the usual $109.99.

Bear in mind that this is a Certified Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, according to Amazon, which means it’s likely an open box scenario in which someone bought it and returned it within 30 days, not wanting it.

This is the best-selling Kindle, but you won’t be able to see today’s deal unless you’re a Prime member in the US or Prime Student subscriber.

There’s been a significant Amazon Kindle Paperwhite price drop today, just hours before the Amazon Prime Day deals kick off for a 30-hour stretch.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is $30 off today only, which means you’re paying $79.99 for the most popular Amazon e-reader, as opposed to the usual $109.99.

Bear in mind that this is a Certified Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, according to Amazon, which means it’s likely an open box scenario in which someone bought it and returned it within 30 days, not wanting it.

This is the best-selling Kindle, but you won’t be able to see today’s deal unless you’re a Prime member in the US or Prime Student subscriber.

More Amazon Prime Day news to come

Amazon Prime Day is now shaping up to be a massive sales day for the online retailer, on the scale of its Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

Almost every Amazon device seems to be on sale, including Amazon Echo, and we expect the company to be hawking more of its goods.

Amazon Prime Day is technically tomorrow, starting at 6PM ET / 9PM PT, dipping into July 10. The official ‘Prime Day’ date is all day on July 11.

With deep discounts like this one for the Kindle Paperwhite 3rd Generation, we expect to see more refurbished items with price drops percentages in the double digits.

It’s a good sign. We’ll have more early deals, leaks and a rundown of the discounts at the link below.

The AWS Summit in London has opened – and queues of several hundred people are already building around the venue as rumours of an IT failure on the ticket desks swirl.

Sources trapped in the queue sent us pictures from outside East London’s Excel exhibition centre, where AWS Summit London 2017 is taking place. They also speculated on why the queues had built up, wondering whether a registration desk software failure was to blame.

Our reporter on the ground, Andrew Silver, said that the queues were security-related and that event staff running the security desks were admitting batches of people at a time to manage the flow. Once entrants passed security they were then allowed to proceed to registration as normal.

An Amazon rep told Vulture Central that the conference was bigger than last year’s (but they would say that – Ed.) and as a result, they were trying to organise the flow of people into the Excel so as not to leave queues blocking back into Prince Regent station on the Docklands Light Railway, which has a direct entrance to the Excel.

No registration software has gone TITSUP*, we understand, though the queues are rather sizeable.

As seen by a Reg source outside the Excel centre

Meanwhile, folk who got in early seem to be enjoying themselves at the keynotes…


The head of Nordic operations for Amazon Web Services (AWS) has spelled out exactly why the US cloud computing giant chose to locate three state-of-the-art data centers in Sweden.

In April, it emerged that AWS planned to open a new infrastructure region for its cloud computing services in the Stockholm region in 2018.

Sweden’s enterprise and innovation minister Mikael Damberg hailed the deal as “huge” for Sweden.

“They could do that wherever in the world, but chose to do it here,” he added.

Now the man responsible for expanding AWS’s cloud services operations in Sweden, American Darren Mowry, has disclosed the reasoning behind his company’s decision to invest in Sweden.

“Sweden truly does have it all,” Mowry writes in a blog post published on the Data Centers by Sweden website.