Alexa Microwave No More
The Alexa-enabled Amazon Basics brand microwave appears to have been discontinued. The smart microwave is listed as unavailable and without any indication that it is coming back. We’ve reached out to Amazon for confirmation on the matter as well as whether there’s any connection to the reports that Amazon is laying off 10,000 people with a focus particularly on devices and Alexa..
Amazon revealed the Amazon Basics microwave four years ago. The small microwave, only 0.7 cubic feet, cost $60, but depends on an Amazon Echo smart speaker to operate. With a connected Echo, you can ask the microwave to cook different items or set the time it should run. Alexa uses its conversational AI for precision and follow-up questions, like responding to a request to heat coffee by asking how big the cup is, or asking what it is defrosting when asked to do so. The front of the microwave also has an Alexa button to activate the voice assistant should that be preferable to talking to waking Alexa through the Echo.
Notably, the microwave was less a major product itself, but more of a test run for the Amazon Alexa Connect Kit, which other hardware developers can use to build Alexa into their devices. And they have done so, with Sharp, GE, and other brands building Alexa-enabled microwaves and other appliances. Amazon also makes regular improvements to the Alexa Connect Kit to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
Amazon has a regular habit of cutting products when their purpose is superseded in some way or if they are an experiment that doesn’t sell well. Most recently, the company ceased to produce the Amazon Glow interactive projector and video call screen for kids. The microwave and Glow are part of a collection of other retired features and products, such as the Cloud Cam, an early Alexa smart home device since overtaken by Blink and Ring that Amazon stopped supporting in June. A couple of years ago, Amazon discontinued both the Dash Wand and the Echo Look. The Dash Wand’s barcode scanner and microphone were created to encourage users to ask Alexa to order products, while the Echo Look carried Alexa’s fashion advice into a user’s closet. All of those devices had only a narrow range of tasks and were superseded by other brands owned or acquired by Amazon. The company often shepherds potential future devices through the Build It program, where the product decision is based on pre-orders. That’s how one of three colorful designs for the Echo Dot by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg was chosen, as well as a smart sticky note printer.