THE AMAZON ECHO is an unlikely hit. After all, the world’s largest online retailer hasn’t always won its bets on hardware. (RIP, Fire Phone.) And a gadget that relies solely on voice? Let’s just say Siri hasn’t inspired confidence.
Yet Amazon has by one estimate sold some 3 million of the squat cylinders since the Echo launched in November, 2014. The company doesn’t share sales data, but it did say Alexa, the voice-activated software that powers Echo, is active in millions of places, including smartphone apps and other Amazon gadgets.
And this month the Echo surpassed more than 1,000 “skills,” or apps, after the company opened up the software developer kit last spring. This third-party enthusiasm could create a virtuous cycle where the more Echo does, the more it sells, just like the iPhone after Apple opened the App Store.