052 - Brian Roemmele - Amazon’s Hardware Announcements: Keys to the Castle - Pt. 1

Echo Buds, Echo Frames, Echo Loop, and more new products take Alexa to new fields: what does it mean? Brian Roemmele is known as the Oracle of Voice for a reason. Over decades he has predicted so many things that came true. The brilliance of these new products like Echo Loop is about getting Amazon into the castle without fighting for spaces that are already occupied, like the wrist or the pocket.

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About Our Guest:

Brian Roemmele is the recognized world authority on how voice AI will impact computing and commerce. Over arc of his career, Brian has built and run payments and tech businesses, worked in media, including the promotion of top musicians, and explored a variety of other subjects along the way. He has been published in Forbes, Huffington Post, Newsweek, Slate, Business Insider, Daily Mail, Inc, Gizmodo, Medium, and is an exclusive Quora top writer. He hosts Around the Coin (earliest crypto currency podcast), Breaking Banks Radio and more, discussing everything from Bitcoin to Voice Commerce.

Brian created the Multiplex app and Multiplex Magazine, a way to stay on top of everything important in technology, payments and just about anything else. He has taken the stage at Money 20/20, ETA Transact and many private events as a speaker on the future of Voice Commerce.

Companies don’t patent things just because.

A big theme of this episode is getting out of the weeds of the technical features and instead looking at better ways to get work done. Think big picture. We are looking at the beginnings of new use cases in brand new paradigms.

When you paradigm shift, the canvas is blank, and that’s where we are with voice.

This is Part 1 - tune back in next week to hear more! We cover branding and marketing foundations based on personas and archetypes, which will determine success tomorrow. 1-click subscribe free in your favorite podcast app now so you don’t miss it.

The idea of the app is already gone.


From Brian’s Quora article about Amazon’s Fall 2019 release and preview of products (9/25/2019):

If Echo and Alexa devices from Amazon along with the Skills ecosystem were a stand-alone company in 2019, using typical startup multiples, Echo, Inc would be worth about $500 billion dollars. This is an astounding achievement and there shows no sign that the acceleration is slowing.

Amazon Owns The Far-Field Voice First Market, Now They Are Comping For The Near-Field

Today was a next generation Amazon Alexa-themed event with Echo devices for every possible use case but most specially the near-field. I have surfaced ~32 primary Voice First modalities. Amazon is now in three:

1. Near-field - on the body

2. Mid-field - small environment

3. Far-field - open room

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Timestamps by topic:

  • 04:00 Amazon’s patents telegraph the future

  • 04:50 Amazon did not dominate in smartphone, obviously (Fire Phone failed - and at the time in 2014, people overlooked the first generation Amazon Echo)

  • 05:50 Smartphone is an old modality

  • 06:10 iPhone is the iconic smartphone

  • 06:30 What is the strategy to get into the castle? Content and shopping, largest merchant on planet

  • 07:10 “Amazon is a retailer, not a technology company” - this is why Amazon created the voice first experience first

Brian Roemmele -  @BrianRoemmele

Brian Roemmele - @BrianRoemmele

  • 07:35 Amazon does not pretend to be a tech company, they’re a company that produces technology

  • 07:50 Amazon doesn’t have mindshare yet, and that is key

  • 07:55 What happens with content and mindshare? How does content creation play in?

  • 08:30 Amazon is not going after the smartphone or smart watch (not after the wrist or the pocket

  • 09:10 Products that define new categories must be loved and hated

  • 09:30 “Talk to the hand” back in vernacular with Echo Loop

  • 10:30 Tech companies don’t consider anthropological and sociological impact of products

  • 11:10 We ask “Can we?” too often and don’t ask “Should we?” enough

  • 11:45 Brian’s thesis: Hyper Local

  • 11:55 Echo Loop (a ring) is not always on - it has a button to engage Alexa. It draws you into the Alexa ecosystem without taking away from Apple AirPods - and that is brilliant.

  • 13:20 Future of the voice assistant that you talk to like a significant other

  • 13:30 Done thumb clawing at screen - that is the future

  • 13:50 Echo Frames and Echo Loop are early versions of the ubiquitous voice future

  • 14:20 Near field computing, mid-field, and far-field (open room) - Amazon’s secret weapon over the castle wall was to get in the home (with Echo in 2014) - which became the fastest adopted consumer technology in history

  • 15:10 The tech leap happened organically with consumers from kitchen to living room - Amazon is doing the same strategy again to get people to adopt this in the near field

  • 15:50 People mocked the iPad (menstrual pad?) and look what happened - these products have to be hated or mocked

  • 16:30 iPhone was laughed at because it didn’t have a keyboard. What is past is prologue. We always see the future through the glasses of right now and the past - always view the future through the rearview mirror:

  • 16:40 We defined the new in the words of the old, e.g.: the horseless carriage, flameless candle, talking pictures.

  • 17:50 Most voice first experts have nothing to do with the technology world, which irritates folks in tech

  • 18:45 Computing is not what it was for the last sixty years, and it will not continue to be what is has been the last twenty - think about this for typing and interacting

  • 18:55 Technology gets bigger and bigger until it disappears (e.g. you don’t talk about your carburetor, you just buy a car that works or Jobs saying RAM doesn’t matter, you will only care what the computer does or accomplishes)

  • 21:35 There are no killer applications for voice. “Apps?” That’s 2D. (Check out our interview with Dave Isbitski, Chief Evangelist of Alexa, where we concluded the same thing)

  • 21:55 So what are people really looking for with voice?

  • 22:30 "The idea of the app is already gone.” - Brian

  • 23:40 The intimate relationship that technology can and will spawn is the killer app. We can’t see that world clearly yet

  • 24:50 We’re not battling on the grounds defined by prior technologies

  • 25:10 We’ve only seen 4 of the 175 modalities that voice first works in

  • 25:50 Amazon’s brilliance is great utility to an existing ecosystem (Alexa)

Echo Buds ( pre-order Echo Buds for $129.99  <— this link helps support the show!)

Echo Buds (pre-order Echo Buds for $129.99 <— this link helps support the show!)

  • 25:00 Amazon doesn’t expect Echo Buds to replace Apple AirPods

  • 27:20 Echo Buds isolate noise and incorporate multiple VAs like Google and Siri

  • 27:30 AirPods are a cultural phenomenon about fashion as much as sound- that is why they won’t be easily replaced by Echo Buds

  • 28:05 Brand signaling with AirPods, or whatever product comes next- that is human

  • 28:30 Loop and Frames are wise moves

  • 29:10 AOL move to open AOL Mail to internet mail is similar to Buds move to open to other VAs

  • 29:40 Amazon subsidies for Buds and Amazon Music. Music is a commodity - supplier does not matter.

  • 30:10 When you stream music, that streaming service makes almost nothing (e.g. Apple, Google, Spotify) - loss leader. The strategy is about attention, narrative, communication with the customer.

  • 30:50 See: Prime. Brilliant. Long term relationship.


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