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Amazon has continued to expand its online retail roots in 2014 with the highly publicised launch of both the Fire TV platform and the Fire-branded smartphone. But it's latest product it has taken us almost by surprise.

Amazon's introduction of the Echo has not exactly been all-singing and all-dancing – but this $200 speaker is an interesting take on the now relatively common portable wireless speaker.

One of the integral features of the Amazon Echo is that it is voice-controlled; another is that it has a Siri-style virtual assistant that is "always ready, connected and fast". And it seems to be able to help with many things.

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For example, Amazon Echo promises to give you the latest news, weather and travel information if you ask for it. It also offers hands-free control for music services including Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

And with its Bluetooth capabilities, you will also be able to stream music from other services – such as Spotify, iTunes and Pandora – from your mobile. Meanwhile, cloud connectivity means it will add new features automatically.

The 9.25in x 3.27in Amazon Echo features dual downward-firing speakers that, it is claimed, offer 360-degree, multi-directional sound. There's a 2.5in woofer and a 2in tweeter, with a reflex port to boost the woofer's output.

MORE: Amazon launches new Prime Music streaming service

More after the break

At the moment, you have to "request an invitation" from Amazon if you want to get your hands on an Echo. And while it comes with a $200 price tag (that's around £125), Prime members can get it for $99 – approximately £60.

Amazon says that, should your invitation be accepted, you will get an email "in the coming weeks" that will let you make a purchase. Little else has been made known about its availability, but we will be keeping our eyes peeled for more...

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utomo's picture

Is this mono speaker ? Can we

Is this mono speaker ? 
Can we expect good enough sound quality.
I wish they have local storage. Not all cloud 


jasperhooker's picture

Not good enough...

I would rather go for one of the top rated Bluetooth speakers (from rankings like http://www.consumertop.com/best-bluetooth-speaker/), this just won't cut it. 

Simon Ashton's picture

The clever thing about this

The clever thing about this is the voice control and understanding of human language, not only your voice but finding useful results from around the web. The team behind this is the same as those who made 'Evi' artificial intelligence.

I like the 7 mic array that enables variable polar patterns to track the users voice. Similar as the sound steering tech used by surround bars.