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Amazon hardware chief envisions a day when the company doesn't make hardware

Dave Limp also says the next areas of focus for the Alexa voice assistant are cars and businesses.


Dave Limp, Amazon's head of devices, has guided the development of the company's Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet and Echo speaker lines. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A day could come when Amazon doesn't make any Alexa-powered devices, the man who oversees Alexa and Amazon's devices said Tuesday.

Dave Limp, the Amazon senior vice president overseeing the company's hardware, said he didn't think that day would come "anytime soon," but could see it happening. He made the comments Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal D.Live technology conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. 

"Maybe someday it's all third-party hardware," Limp said. "That would be a fine outcome."

Limp noted that Amazon continues to experiment on the edges with technology other companies may not want to touch, like integrating a display into the Echo Show smart speaker. And that isn't likely to change for quite awhile.

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Limp has guided the development of the company's Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet and Echo speaker lines. Before joining the e-commerce heavyweight in 2010, he was an executive at Palm and a venture partner at Azure Capital Partners. He started his career at Apple, where he spent about a decade.

Amazon launched the original Echo in 2014. The device became a hit for the company and helped usher in a new era of voice computing. Now, Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft are racing to build up their own voice assistants and integrate them into more devices to catch up. To stay one step ahead, Amazon aggressively expanded its line of Echo devices, pushed Alexa into hospitality and office spaces, and integrated Alexa with over 20,000 kinds of devices.

Along with the Echo, Amazon has seen success in its equally unflashy but low-priced Fire tablets and Fire TV video streamers. Its rare miss was for the Fire Phone, which quickly failed after its 2014 debut.

Limp said on Tuesday the next focus areas for Alexa are automobiles and businesses. The company is working on ways to add the voice assistant to cars without those services having been originally built into the vehicles. And he envisions transforming the meeting and conference room era with Alexa. 

"We think of Alexa and Echoes and other devices as an ambient user interface," Limp said. "It doesn't replace phones or laptops but instead augments them." 

He noted while voice assistants aren't for everything, they're good for families and kid. He expects them to be in every room in the future. 

"As we advance, that you'll see that this becomes the new normal," Limp said. "It will no longer become what room [has an Echo], but what room doesn't have it. ... [And eventually the] price point to which it costs to put it into one of these rooms is basically a rounding error. ... I'm optimistic that every room in your house will one day listen to you."


Meanwhile, Amazon on Tuesday officially selected New York City and Arlington, Virginia, as the locations for its new headquarters. The company plans to employ more than 25,000 people at each location. More specifically, the locations are Long Island City in New York City's Queens borough and National Landing (a new name for the Crystal City neighborhood) in Arlington, Virginia.

Amazon's HQ2 gained attention as one of the biggest corporate projects in the US, with the e-retailer planning to hire 50,000 workers and spend $5 billion. The company fueled excitement about its plans by inviting cities to pitch themselves as sites for the development.

Limp on Tuesday said Amazon had to "go with its gut" when it came to selecting its new headquarters locations. He noted the choice wasn't obvious when Amazon narrowed the list to 20.

"All had really great characteristics and brought a lot to the table," he said. "At the end, the tie went to where we could recruit and where people want to live."

CNET's Ben Rubin contributed to this report. 

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