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Why Amazon’s master plan for Alexa includes things like voice-controlled Bose headphones

It’s all about the OS.

Kayvon Webster of the Los Angeles Rams with a pair of BOSE headphones on as he warms up before a game
Kayvon Webster of the Los Angeles Rams with a pair of BOSE headphones on as he warms up before a game in October 2017
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

One might think Amazon would be satisfied with the surprise success of its Echo speakers, the voice-controlled gadgets that have become hit holiday gifts and more in the three years since they were invented.

But as usual, Amazon wants more — a lot more — for Alexa, the voice assistant technology that powers the Echo family of devices.

That ambition leads us to a pair of Bose headphones currently in development that will allow you to summon Alexa by voice. The companies revealed their plans yesterday in an announcement about new tools for software developers that are supposed to make it easier for them to add the voice technology to headphones, wearable devices and smartwatches.

So why do you need to control your headphones with your voice, you may wonder? Maybe so you can change songs or raise the volume without pulling out your phone or fiddling with a stereo, if you still use that sort of thing.

Or maybe the specific use case doesn’t really matter to Amazon. Instead, this is just another reminder that Amazon sees Alexa as the operating system of the future and, as such, wants to embed it every single gadget it can, to accompany you everywhere you go.

Another benefit: Amazon doesn’t control the operating system of any major smartphones — it failed in that market, and its voice-assistant rivals Google and Apple are the major global winners there. But by partnering with companies that make popular accessories, many of which connect to your phone or directly to the internet, it has a better chance at competing with your phone’s built-in assistant, whether Siri, Google, or another.

Headphones? Check. Smartwatches? Check. Light switches? Check. Ovens? Check. BMWs? Check.

The more devices that carry Alexa, the more engrained it becomes in all facets of our lives. The more engrained it becomes in all facets of our lives, the more natural that voice searches, voice commands and voice queries start to become to us, whether we’re in our home, in our car or somewhere in between.

And then? And then the barriers to transacting with Amazon that exist when a computer or phone isn’t handy start to crumble.

Speaking to your car to order dinner through Amazon Restaurants starts to feel normal on your drive home from work.

Asking the Alexa embedded in your new fridge to reorder paper towels becomes something you aren’t embarrassed to do.

And telling your Bose headphones to order the deodorant you forgot as you walk home from the drugstore maybe, just maybe, begins to feel a tiny bit like magic.

Echos are certainly crucial to Alexa’s goals inside the home. But Amazon needs help from all type of gadget makers to embed Alexa everywhere else.

This article originally appeared on

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