Amazon to hold a devices and services event Sept. 25

Here come more Alexa devices.

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
3 min read

The Amazon Echo Spot.

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Amazon said Thursday it will hold a devices and services event on Sept. 25 at its Seattle headquarters.

Like several other tech giants, the online retailer for the last few years has held fall product launches to show off its latest gadgets ahead of the holiday season. Last year brought out dozens of new products and features, including revised Echo Dot and Echo Show smart speakers, as well as an Alexa-powered microwave and wall clock.

So far, there have been few rumors about what Amazon might reveal this year. Bloomberg in July reported that Amazon is developing a high-end smart speaker and an Alexa-powered robot, though it's unclear whether either product could be unveiled later this month. Rumors of a premium Alexa speaker to rival the Google Home Max have circulated in past years without coming to fruition. Amazon's own hardware chief, David Limp, in 2017 even threw cold water on the idea of such a device. Two years ago, the Financial Times reported that Amazon was developing smart glasses with Alexa built in, but that product also has yet to surface.

Amazon earlier this month at the IFA trade show in Berlin unveiled a bunch of new Fire TV products, including an updated Fire TV Cube and a new soundbar.

The upcoming event comes at a time of far greater focus on privacy concerns about voice-powered devices like Amazon's Echo speakers. Earlier this year, several reports came out about workers reviewing sensitive recordings from people's smart speakers, which prompted Apple , Google and Amazon to change their policies and procedures on human reviews. Amazon now lets its users opt out of the practice.

Additionally, Amazon and fellow tech titans Apple, Facebook and Google are all facing mounting investigations by Congress, attorneys general and regulators about their business practices and potential monopolies. Amazon, meanwhile, has been dogged by years of negative coverage about its treatment of its employees and more recently has faced questions about work that its Ring video doorbell business is doing with police. Refocusing consumers' attention on Amazon's innovations and new products could help the company build valuable goodwill with shoppers amid a growing backlash against it.

Watch this: Amazon Alexa 2018 event: Editors react

Regardless of all these challenges, Amazon likely needs to keep pushing forward its Alexa business to stay ahead of Google, Apple and others. In the US, the Amazon Echo speaker remains dominant with 70% of the installed base of smart speakers, followed by the Google Home at 25% and Apple HomePod at 5%, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

For close watchers of Amazon's public posture, the announcement of the event offers a slight departure from previous years. Keeping with its typical secrecy, the company had in the past embargoed the event -- and even embargoed the embargo -- leading to "surprise" reveals of an Amazon devices event the day of. This move was in stark contrast to Apple, which shows off fancy invitations for its events that are then meticulously picked over by tech reporters as if they're Talmudic texts.

Amazon's RSVP this year was just a few sentences in an email, not nearly as showy as Apple but a little more open than before. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment further on what may be announced at the event.

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