As the Echo and Alexa from Amazon continue to set the pace for what to expect from voice-based interfaces and home hubs, Amazon is expanding them to Asia for the first time today. Today, the e-commerce giant announced that Echo and Alexa are now on sale in India, and later this year, they will also launch in Japan.
The devices are launching "by invitation" today. Users request these by visiting the specific local sites for the Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot. Eligible customers "will receive an introductory discount of 30 percent off the purchase price of Echo devices and one year of Prime membership." Devices are due to ship beginning the week of October 30.
“Millions of customers love Alexa, and we’re thrilled to introduce her to our customers in India today and Japan later this year,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa, in a statement. “We’re also excited to expand the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, so developers and hardware makers around the world can create localized Alexa experiences for our Indian and Japanese customers.”
India is launching today, with preorders open now for shipments starting later this month on the latest model of the Echo (launched last week), the Echo Plus, and the Echo Dot, all powered by Alexa localised to English as it's pronounced in India, along with "support for music titles, names, and places in additional non-English languages."
Prices will be ₹9,999 ($153) for the Echo, ₹14,999 ($230) for the Echo Plus, and ₹4,499 ($69) for the Echo Dot.
The company is also detailing some of the third-party services that will be integrated with Alexa, including The Times of India, NDTV, Reuters, and ESPNcricinfo for news and flash briefings; and local weather. Amazon Music will sit alongside other music services integrated into the service like Saavn ("India's Spotify") and TuneIn.
The move to launch first in India in its march into Asia underscores Amazon's focus on building out its business in that country. The company has said it plans to invest billions into building out its India operations, to tap into a rapidly expanding market and the second-largest economy after China in the region.
The move also comes right on the heels of Google's hardware event later today, where the company is largely expected to make some waves on new devices and services for Google Home, the company's home hub that competes with the Echo.
The popular Echo -- a massive sales success for the company -- and the ecosystem of other devices and services around it are a large part of how Amazon hopes to expand its business in the future, not just in consumer electronics, but in its wider e-commerce operations and as a platform and interface between people and the many digitised services they use today.
It also may just be a coincidence, but today Amazon was also in the news for an entirely different reason: the company is getting a lot of heat in Europe over the amount of taxes that it has paid in the past. Currently the European Commission is trying to recover nearly $300 million in taxes from Luxembourg, which it believes is falling down on its requirements to collect it from Amazon.
The company told TechCrunch in a statement that it's considering an appeal on the order. But in the meantime, today's launch and its efforts in Asia overall are a reminder of how Amazon has a growing business and operations outside this region.