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First Look: Amazon Echo: Novelty item or ready-for-prime-time part of your digital life?

Joel Snyder | June 2, 2015
While some parts are beautifully done, the information services at the back end have a long way to go before the Echo is more than a novelty.

Amazon's current answer is a free service called IFTTT (If This, Then That), which can be connected to the Echo via your Amazon account. IFTTT recipes can provide the glue between Echo and other services. For example, using the Evernote example, you can write an IFTTT recipe that will add anything from your To-Do list to an Evernote notebook. Today, IFTTT recipes can watch your To-Do and Shopping lists, and questions regarding sports teams (including Men's, but not Women's, college NCAA basketball), then trigger various types of actions. It's an interesting and extremely limited start, but it moves the Echo firmly out of "general tool" and into "hobbyist" territory. Today, there are 192 recipes up on IFTTT for the Echo, but this is very early stage: who wants to say "Alexa, what's on my To-Do list" to ring their mobile phone?

Amazon boasts that the Echo is always getting better, because the heavy lifting is done in their cloud-based service. That should make easier tasks such as expanding the types of questions you can ask, improving their answers, and linking to existing digital services. Since the Echo has only been shipping in quantities for a week, it's premature to rush to judgment--but it's also too early to recommend buying an Echo.


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