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The Amazon Echo was originally going to cost $50

by Brandon Russell | April 20, 2016April 20, 2016 7:00 am PST

People love to talk about how the Amazon Echo is one of the best gadgets to come out in a long while. But little do people know that the Echo almost didn’t make it. In fact, the voice-activated speaker was nearly axed in the wake of Amazon’s failed Fire Phone experiment.

A new report from Bloomberg sheds light on the popular Amazon product, and the development hell it went through at Lab 126, Amazon’s secretive hardware division. Did you know the Echo was originally going to be called Amazon Flash? I did not, but apparently Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was strongly in favor of that name. It wasn’t changed until some engineers within Lab126 confronted Bezos about it, according to Bloomberg.

Another revelation in the story includes a passage claiming the Echo was originally expected to cost just $50. But engineers soon realized that target wasn’t attainable, and the price later ballooned to $180—a price Amazon reportedly still takes a loss on.

Here’s a particularly revealing part in the story:

Once Amazon’s engineers started building the speaker, they realized it would need more processing power than they’d anticipated. They swapped out the microcontroller, the kind of simple computer used to control devices like remote controls, with a microprocessor, which could handle more complex tasks. Even as these fundamental changes went on, the lab’s leadership was convinced the speaker was almost ready. For three consecutive years, the product was expected to ship within six months. The $50 target price seemed more and more far-fetched.

Despite these setbacks, the division managed to regroup, taking the device from insane idea to being Amazon’s best and most important product since the Kindle. Today, Alexa, the intelligent assistant under the hood of Echo’s cylindrical body, has learned more than 500 skills and is getting smarter every day.

The Echo is a far cry from where the product was when it first launched in 2014 and, indeed, from where it was in the depths of Lab126 years ago. You can learn much more about the Echo’s inception in the link below.

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Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.