September 20, 2018 / 6:42 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 2-Amazon adds new Echo devices in bid to dominate voice gadgets

(Adds PIX, updates shares)

By Jeffrey Dastin

SEATTLE, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc on Thursday introduced a dozen new Echo speakers and related gadgets in a bid to stay ahead of rivals Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google in the nascent category for voice-controlled devices.

The world's largest online retailer announced updated versions of its Echo Show, Echo Dot and Echo Plus, as well as new devices such as a voice-controlled microwave and wall clock. It announced the Echo Auto for shoppers to talk to in their cars. And it added the Echo Sub and the $299.99 Echo Link Amp, focused on creating better entertainment systems for the home.

The flurry of new products shows Amazon is working to make ubiquitous its voice-controlled assistant Alexa, which powers the Echo devices. It wants Alexa to be a dominant computing platform like Microsoft Corp’s Windows.

The announcements also underscore a strategic difference from Google and Apple, which so far have released fewer devices while Amazon has released many different gadgets for different purposes.

"They're going to be a lot less transactional, and a lot more conversational," said David Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of devices and services who introduced the new gadgets at company headquarters in Seattle.

Research firm eMarketer has said that 40.7 million people in the United States will use Echo devices this year, up more than 31 percent from 2017. Some two-thirds of U.S. smart speaker users will have an Echo this year, versus 30 percent having the rival Google Home, including some overlap.

The company also added new security devices from Ring, which it acquired earlier this year. And it added a 'Smart Plug' product to help ease setup of these and other devices, which can be a major pain point for shoppers new to using 'smart home' technology.

Amazon.com shares were up 1.1 percent to $1,946.75 in afternoon trading.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in Seattle Editing by Nick Zieminski

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