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Amazon is 'doubling down' on the Echo ecosystem

Amazon's future includes Alexa, AI and AWS.
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Roberto Baldwin

Amazon is off to a profitable start in 2017. The company's first-quarter sales jumped 23 percent to $35.7 billion, beating analyst expectations, and top executives pinned part of that spike on the Alexa ecosystem.

"We're very encouraged by the customer response to Echo products," one exec said during Amazon's financial call today. "Not only the products, but the ability now to use tablets as Echo devices, since we spread the Alexa technology to many of those devices. We're also happy with the success we've had with developers; there are now more than 12,000 Alexa skills, so we think that's all foundational."

Amazon debuted the Echo in 2014, bringing the voice-activated Alexa assistant into people's homes. Since then, the company has released the $50 Echo Dot and opened up the Alexa software to developers.

Echo and Alexa are crucial areas of investment for Amazon right now. It makes sense, too: As more people adopt Alexa-enabled technologies, Amazon is able to steer those customers toward its own products and services.

"Some of the things that we're investing the most in are, as you say, the Echo and Alexa devices," the executive said. "We're doubling down on that investment."

Amazon isn't stopping with Alexa, of course. The company is involved in a multitude of industries, including livestreaming, space, cloud computing, fashion, autonomous driving, drone delivery, bookstores, original programming, experimental grocers, and, of course, online shopping. Thankfully, it seems to be done with the smartphone market for now.

Another major focus for the company going forward is artificial intelligence and machine learning -- building up the software that powers Alexa and Amazon Web Services, the popular cloud computing platform. In this sense, Amazon is on the same page as one of its most prominent Silicon Valley neighbors: Google today announced a nearly $1 billion jump in its "other services" sector, which includes AI and hardware endeavors.

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