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Smart Home

Amazon Echo headed to retail in the US

As its role in the connected home continues to grow, the voice-activated smart speaker will arrive in stores just in time for the holiday buying season.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The voice-activated Amazon Echo smart speaker is making its way to retail outlets across the US, the online super-retailer announced today. The move comes after an advertising push for the gadget and will put Echo on store shelves at Home Depot, Staples, Sears and several other outlets, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Amazon Echo was originally pitched as a voice-controlled, cloud-connected streamer capable of playing tunes from the Amazon Prime music library, reading off weather forecasts and headlines on demand, curating your shopping list, or telling your children jokes.

The Echo has since grown into something of a smart-home centerpiece thanks to an open approach to third-party software development. Echo's integrations with popular products like Philips Hue and Lifx's color-changing LEDs ; the connected-home platforms of SmartThings, Wink and Insteon; and Belkin WeMo's on/off switches give you the option of controlling your gadgets by talking to Alexa, the voice-activated artificial intelligence housed inside.

For instance, you could ask Alexa to turn your desk fan on or dim the lights to 10 percent. We've tested those exact sort of voice commands in the CNET Smart Home, and they work well enough so for us to consider Alexa a legitimate rival for Siri, who has her own ambitions of Apple-powered smart home voice control .

Echo currently sells on Amazon for $180, but Black Friday discounts seem like a distinct possibility, given Amazon's push to position the speaker as a must-have tech gift this year. The full retail rollout is expected to place Echos in more than 3,000 stores across the US -- expect to start seeing them in the coming weeks.