Amazon devices chief: HomePod and Echo ain't the same thing

David Limp offers a few major differences between his company's Echo smart speaker and Apple's new HomePod. Price is obviously one of them.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
2 min read
WIRED Business Conference Presented By Visa At Spring Studios In New York City

Amazon's David Limp speaking at the Wired Business Conference on Wednesday.

Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired

If Amazon's head of devices is nervous about the new Apple HomePod, he's not letting that show.

David Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of devices, on Wednesday offered one of his company's first official responses to the HomePod. The $349 Siri-powered smart speaker, revealed Monday, comes out in December and is a new competitor to the Amazon Echo and its digital assistant Alexa.

"From our standpoints it's a little different philosophically than how we are looking at Echo," he told a group of reporters at the Wired Business Conference in New York.

For one thing, Amazon's intention is to make its Echo devices cheap enough that people can put them all over their house, Limp said. That's why Amazon created the $50 Echo Dot. At a much steeper price, putting a HomePod in every room would be prohibitively expensive for most customers.

Second, Limp argued people have varied tastes in speakers, so Amazon made it easy for customers to pair an Echo with your high-end home entertainment system. In comparison, the HomePod was designed to be your primary speaker.

Considering those two differences, Limp didn't seem concerned the HomePod would start eating into the Echo's customer base.

Asked about Amazon potentially introducing with its own premium-tier Echo speaker, Limp didn't sound too keen on the idea.

"I wouldn't want to talk about roadmaps, but I think when people are starting to spend that amount of money for a speaker -- call it hundreds of dollars per speaker --  I think that generally they are going to want choice," he said. "And we sell a lot of speakers on Amazon and we want to give people a lot of choice."

Here are a handful of other interesting tidbits from Limp's chat Wednesday:

  • On the potential for different voice assistants -- such as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri or Google Assistant -- connecting to each other and working together: "We're open to that … If Apple or Google want to come call, my phone number is out there. They can call. I hope there is a day when that happens. I don't know if I can envision it, but I hope it happens, on behalf of customers."
  • On "Saturday Night Live's" skit on the Amazon Echo Silver, a parody device for seniors: "It was awesome, it was so good. And there are some good product ideas in there."
  • On the rumor that Amazon is working on a new phone for emerging markets code-named Ice, as a followup to its failed Fire Phone : "I will not speculate on any of those rumors," though he added that if Amazon could find a way to differentiate in phones, it would come out with a new device.
  • On consumer interest for Amazon's new Echo Look and Echo Show : "The early signs are good, and we'll see."

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