Logitech Abandons Alexa-Powered Remote Control After Just One Year
Logitech is ending support for its Harmony Expres remote control, asking owners to trade them in for a less voice-focused option. The Harmony Express debuted a little over a year ago, but the company clearly sees it as a failed experiment compared to its other products.
The Harmony Express was Logitech’s attempt at creating a remote less reliant on touchscreens or buttons. The Express only had buttons for starting and stopping play, adjusting volume, and the most basic menu control. The biggest button by far called on Amazon’s voice assistant to take up the slack for every other command. Alexa would handle pulling up a streaming service, changing the input, or searching for a program.
“With Alexa Built-In, Harmony Express aimed to replace the complexity of the touch screens and programmable buttons found on other Harmony remotes with a simple voice interface,” Logitech wrote in its announcement about the remote. “Unfortunately, our expectations were not met for this kind of Harmony remote, and as a result we’ve decided to focus our efforts on our core user experience: powerful universal remote control in a world with many devices connected to the TV.”
The remote will officially stop working on the last day of September. As compensation for the $250 Express, Logitech is offering owners a refund or a free Harmony Elite, which usually retails for $350. The Elite, seen on the right, fits much more with Logitech’s standard approach, including a touchscreen and a full suite of buttons to control every aspect of not just a television, but stereos and smart home devices as well. Logitech has ended support for other remotes before, but the universal refund and exchange offer is notable in light of the customer backlash Logitech faced in 2017 when it stopped supporting the Harmony Link and initially only offered refunds and exchanges to those under warranty.
Voice Hardware Evolution
The reasons why the Express failed are murky, but may just have to do with what people want from a Logitech device, as opposed to an Amazon Fire remote. On the other hand, it could merely be a function of the changes in how people access and interact with voice assistants. Amazon has stopped making and supporting several of its own Alexa-powered devices of late. The Amazon Dash Wand will stop working later this month, three years after the Alexa-enabled product scanner came out. The same thing happened with the Echo Look, which was designed by Amazon to go into people’s closets and help them shop. Echo smart speakers and smart displays can do all of what the more specialized devices can. Hence, it’s simply cheaper for Amazon to invest in them instead, saving the specialization for mobile devices like the Echo Loop ring and Echo Frames smart glasses. Third-party device makers who want to incorporate Alexa will likely struggle unless their creations complement Amazon’s offerings rather than directly compete as the Express did.