Roku Devices Link With Amazon Alexa

Roku streaming player and Roku TV owners in the United States can now control their Roku devices using Amazon’s Alexa, Roku announced.

“Consumers often have multiple voice ecosystems in their homes. By allowing our customers to choose Alexa, in addition to Roku voice search and controls, and other popular voice assistants; we are strengthening the value Roku offers as a neutral platform in home entertainment,” said Ilya Asnis, SVP of Roku OS at Roku, in a statement. “Roku customers can get to the entertainment they love faster so they can enjoy more of it.”

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Roku users with Alexa-enabled devices — including Amazon Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot, Echo Spot and Echo Plus — can pause a show, launch a streaming channel and search for entertainment with such voice commands as, “Alexa, find comedies on Roku,” “Alexa, pause Roku” or “Alexa, open Hulu on Roku,” according to the Roku press release. Additionally, Roku TV users can turn on the TV, change the volume, mute the TV, switch inputs and change channels if there is an OTA antenna connected by saying, “Alexa, turn on Roku” or “Alexa, turn up the volume on Roku.”

Customers can control Roku devices running Roku OS 8.1 or greater using their Alexa-enabled devices. To access the feature, customers open the Alexa app, go to settings and select “TV & Video,” enable the Roku skill, and link their account.

The Roku OS offers access to 500,000-plus movies and TV episodes via thousands of free or paid channels, according to the release.

Why Amazon Should Buy Barnes & Noble

When Amazon launched in 1994, founder Jeff Bezos envisioned his online bookseller competing against local stores and national chains such as Barnes Noble.

And for four years Amazon did just that: Sell books over the Internet more cheaply than anyone else – including Barnes & Noble, which remains one of the last-standing brick-and-mortar book (and packaged media) retailers.

Now Barnes & Noble is in financial trouble. It generated an operating loss of $26.7 million in the most-recent fiscal period. Revenue dipped 2% to $753.2 million.

The Nook segment – B&N’s attempt to compete with Amazon through a branded tablet device and digital (movies, TV shows, music) content – posted a $1.5 million operating loss. Revenue dropped nearly 17% to $21.7 million from $25.9 million last year.

The company hasn’t turned a fiscal profit in nearly two years. It is in litigation with its former CEO over inappropriate workplace behavior allegations and facing a make-or-break winter holiday period – at a time when sales should be booming.

As the retailer looks at “strategic” alternatives, including selling the company – Amazon, by comparison, is minting money.

Having long ago expanded beyond pulp fiction selling merchandise of every variety, in addition to Web services and retail grocery (Whole Foods), the company just posted its best-ever Cyber Monday, with customers ordering more than 180 million items through the five-day Thanksgiving weekend period.

Amazon ended the recent fiscal period with $56 billion in sales and profit approaching $3 billion.

Bezos is one of the richest, if not the wealthiest person on Earth. In 2013, he bought money-losing The Washington Post for $250 million – part vanity play and part attempt to support democracy.

Earlier this year the company became Mercedes-Benz’ largest single customer for the Sprinter van – a fleet order many speculate the company will use for local deliveries.

Acquiring Barnes & Noble would give Amazon 633 retail/distribution locations – many in prime mall locations.

The Amazon/Barnes & Noble store would have lots of cost synergies, including ramping up branded Amazon Go cashier-less convenience concept, showcasing the Amazon connected home (Kindle, Fire TV, Echo Dot, Ring doorbell, banking, etc.) – and selling books.

Fire TV Stick, Echo Dot Amazon Prime Day Best Sellers

As expected, worldwide sales of Amazon’s Fire TV Stick streaming media device and Echo Dot wireless smart speaker topped the e-commerce behemoth’s annual 36-hour Prime Day sales event that ended July 17 at 11;59 p.m. PT.

The company said more than 5 million Fire TV Sticks were sold, while Prime Day was the biggest sales event for the Echo product line.

The Toshiba 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition (50-inch) and Toshiba 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition (43-inch) emerged as Amazon’s best-selling TV deals in the company’s history – selling more than six times as many combined TVs compared to last year’s record-setting Fire TV Edition.

“Extending Prime Day to a day and a half this year allowed us to further reward members with … deals, access to exclusive new products and … experiences that highlight the many benefits of a Prime membership,” Jeff Wilke, CEO worldwide consumer, Amazon, said in a statement.

Prime members across 17 countries purchased more than 100 million products, with Whole Foods Market customers in the United States offered week-long savings.

Members purchased more than five million items in each of the following categories: toys, beauty products, PCs and computer accessories, apparel and kitchen products.

Top sellers from around the world, excluding Amazon devices, included:

  • U.S.: Instant Pot 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi Use; 23 and Me DNA Test; LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
  • U.K.: Bosch Cordless Drill; Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Light strip; Finish Dishwasher Tablets
  • Spain: SanDisk Ultra 64GB memory card; Cecotec Conga Excellence 990 4 in 1 iTech 3.0 robot vacuum cleaner
  • Singapore: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar; Play-Doh Shape and Learn Shape a Story; Kleenex Ultra Soft Toilet Tissue
  • Netherlands: Osmart Zigbee Smart Plug; Philips Hue White Ambiance GU10 LED Spot; Sandisk Micro SD
  • Mexico: Ace Powder Laundry Detergent; Amazon Basics USB Lightning Cable
  • Luxembourg: Jamie Oliver Tefal pan; Brita water filter; Solar-lamp in Preserve Jar with USB connector
  • Japan: Top Super Nanox Liquid Laundry Detergent + Extra Large Refill, SAVAS Whey Protein 100 cocoa flavor 1050g
  • Italy: Finish Dishwasher Tabs All in 1 Max; Braun Multi-grooming Kit Precision Trimmer 9-in-1 for beard Styling; Hoover Rechargeable Broom 2-in-1 Freedom
  • India: Redmi Y2 Gold 32 GB smartphone; Tata salt; Mi 10000mAH Li Polymer Power Bank 2i
  • Germany and Austria: PlayStation Plus Membership; Jamie Oliver Pan by Tefal; Osmart Zigbee Smart Plug
  • France: PlayStation Plus Membership; SanDisk Ultra 64GB memory card, TP Link Wi-Fi connected plug
  • China: Philips Sonicare Healthy White HX6730 Toothbrush; Braun Digital Ear Thermometer; Paul & Joe Beaute Moisturizing Foundation
  • Canada: Instant Pot 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi Use; LifeStraw Personal Water Filter; Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Belgium: SanDisk Ultra 128GB memory card; Osmart Zigbee Smart Plug; Philips Hue lightbulbs
  • Australia: PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console with Bonus Fortnite Content; FIFA 18 for PlayStation 4; Philips Hue lightbulbs

Amazon CFO: Voice-Activated Alexa a ‘Positive Surprise’

Amazon hit a fiscal Q4 home run in North America. One of the revenue drivers was the Echo Dot featuring voice-activated Alexa software.

With more than 30,000 skills, Amazon embeds Alexa in more than 4,000 smart-home devices from 1,200 third-party CE brands.

Proprietary Fire TV Stick and Echo were the best-selling products in 2017 across all of Amazon. Both devices enable users to search, stream and buy movies and TV shows using voice commands. Echo can now – finally – also send text messages.

“We are very happy with the results of Alexa, it’s a very positive surprise for us,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on the Feb. 1 fiscal call.

The executive said Alexa use on Fire TV is up 900% from a year ago, with music consumption up 300% over the winter holidays.

“That’s far exceeding our expectations,” Olsavsky said. “The relationship with external companies is actually helping to accelerate the adoption of Alexa with customers.”

Separately, Amazon wants to emulate North American success internationally, notably in India, which includes 17% of the world’s population, or 1.32 billion people.

The e-commerce behemoth bowed Prime India in July 2016, followed by the global launch of Prime Video in December 2016. Olsavsky said Prime adoption in India was the fastest in Amazon’s history, featuring more than 25 million local products.

Amazon also launched Prime in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, adding the ability for customers in Belgium to shop in Dutch.

Finally, Amazon this year launches second seasons of “Goliath” and “Sneaky Pete,” followed by the third season of “The Man in the High Castle,” the fourth season of “Bosch,” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Other original content includes new episodes from “The Tick,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” and “The Romanoffs.”