Amazon Key, Ring doorbells may become your new smart home BFFs

Amazon's head of devices and Ring's chief executive discuss Amazon's purchase of the company and a price drop for Ring's first smart doorbell.

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
5 min read

Ring is now part of Amazon's effort to build its dominance in smart home.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon Key, the e-commerce giant's in-home delivery service that's off to a bumpy start, may soon get backup from one of the hottest smart home startups around.

Fortunately for Amazon, that startup is now part of the family.

The e-commerce titan on Thursday said it has completed its purchase of Ring, a maker of video doorbells and security cameras, after revealing the deal in late February. Now the work starts in earnest to figure out how to combine forces, including potentially adding Ring into Key, according to Dave Limp, head of Amazon's devices and services.

"As it relates to Key, that's obviously one that we'll look at pretty closely," he said Tuesday. "I wouldn't want to make any commitments at this point in time, but it's certainly one that's on the list that we'll start thinking about."

Limp's comments, which were part of an interview that included Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff, offer a hint as to how Ring fits into Amazon's broader strategy for the smart home. The deal comes as Amazon is working hard to maintain its dominant position in the area, where its Echo devices control 70 percent of the US smart speaker market. Also, its Alexa voice assistant works with thousands of gadgets, including Ring's products. 

But with Google, Apple and Samsung all pushing into the same business, Amazon is trying to keep its edge by continually growing its portfolio of devices, from the Fire TV stick to the Cloud Cam security camera to smart doorbells.

Watch this: Amazon buys Ring

The acquisition also marks a shaky time in Amazon's relationship with smart thermostat and camera maker Nest, a long-time Alexa partner that's owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company. Google in early February merged itself back with Nest so both companies can work more closely together and create a potentially stronger competitor to Amazon. Meanwhile, Amazon has decided not to stock several new Nest devices, including the Nest Hello doorbell that competes against Ring's products.

"We make assortment decisions all the time, based on a number of factors," Amazon said about not selling those products.

'A no-brainer'

Amazon and Ring so far hadn't said much about the acquisition, so Limp (in Seattle) and Siminoff (from Ring's California headquarters) took the opportunity of the deal closing to offer a few more details on their plans and how the deal came together.

Limp said Amazon plans to let Ring continue to run independently, with its headquarters staying in Santa Monica. Amazon also extended employment offers to all of Ring's workers. Siminoff will report directly to Limp.

The deal was reportedly for $1 billion, making it one of Amazon's biggest acquisitions yet, but neither Limp nor Siminoff would confirm that amount during the call Tuesday.

"Ring is doing unbelievably well and has been for a long time, and my view is to continue letting them be Ring," Limp said.

Even though Ring has been succeeding on its own, Siminoff said, he saw an opportunity to reach his goal of making more neighborhoods safer more quickly and more effectively under a major tech player like Amazon.

"It was a no-brainer for me," he added.

Watch this: Ring's Spotlight Cam watches your yard, keeps the lights on

As part of that effort, Amazon announced Thursday that it has permanently cut the price of Ring's original and lowest-price video doorbell from roughly $150 to $100. Siminoff said he believes that lower price is "a major step" in bringing this new kind of home security to more people. A Los Angeles Police Department pilot program found that a neighborhood using the device experienced a 55 percent drop in crime versus another neighborhood that didn't have the doorbells installed.

With Amazon in December buying Blink, another maker of smart doorbells and security cameras, the company now has three separate brands for security cameras and two for doorbells. Amazon said Thursday Ring, Blink, and Amazon Cloud Cam will continue to operate under those brand names, and service for customers will continue as before.

Limp added that Amazon will evaluate its portfolio of devices now that the Ring deal has closed, though he didn't discuss whether there would be changes.

"We don't know yet, we'll start that work," Limp said, adding, "The biggest message to any customer right now is if you bought it a year and a half ago or two years ago or you buy it tomorrow, rest assured we're going to continue supporting it and enhancing those products moving forward."

On smart home tech, Limp added: "We're still in the early days. I get the luxury to look forward a year or two into our future, and I love what I see. It's going to be even more convenient, even more simple, even more magical than what you see today."

After 'Shark Tank'

Limp and Siminoff said the two companies started working together in 2016, when Amazon invested in Ring through its Alexa Fund investment arm. From there it was a slowly building relationship among like-minded companies and leadership teams that eventually led to Amazon's offer to buy Ring, with discussions starting sometime last year.

Asked whether the Ring deal was influenced by Nest reuniting with Google, Limp said: "The answer is no … that's not why we do things," adding that Amazon's focus is on what customers want, not competitors or "other externalities." He also noted that negotiations with Ring started before Google made its announcement.

For Ring, the deal is a big change just five years after the startup, still operating out of a garage, appeared on the show Shark Tank to pitch itself for investors, though no deal came from the appearance. Despite the reported $1 billion price tag, host Mark Cuban last month said he'd pass on Ring again if given the chance since the startup required hundreds of millions of dollars in initial investments.

Siminoff said he didn't harbor any hard feelings about Cuban's comments, though.

"Without Shark Tank I wouldn't be here today," he said. "It was just the injection of energy -- caffeine -- that sort of busted us out."

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