On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled the second generation of its compact Echo Dot, and announced expansions plans for Alexa, Echo, and the Echo Dot into the UK and Germany.

This comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that GE is using Alexa for voice control of its connected appliances, and signifies that Amazon is relentlessly pushing for a strong share of the smart home market. Alexa is the brains behind Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot voice-controlled speakers.

“Smart home is a worldwide phenomenon. Expanding beyond the US is important for Amazon and anyone looking to be competitive,” said David Mitchell Smith, Gartner vice president and analyst.

The original version of the Echo Dot launched earlier this year at $89.99. This much more affordable version, priced at $49.99, is a smaller version of the Echo, with all of the same features. It works with existing Echo installations, or adds voice control to external speakers.

Echo Dot can answer questions, play music, turn on the lights, set timers, give sports updates, check the weather, and access Alexa’s more than 3,000 available skills. It’s available for pre-order at www.amazon.com/echodot and will be shipping in the coming weeks in the US, the UK, and Germany. UK and German customers will also be able to receive the full-sized Echo beginning in October. The original Echo Dot has been sold out for months online.

The Echo Dot has the same seven-microphone array as the Amazon Echo, so that it’s capable of picking up trigger words and canceling out background noise. It comes in black or white, and is designed to be unnoticed in any room in a house. If there are multiple Echo devices within hearing distance, Amazon’s new ESP technology calculates the clarity of the voice being heard and instantly determines which Echo is the best one to respond to the request. This feature will be a free update for all Echo devices in the coming weeks.

SEE: Amazon intros cheaper Echo Dot, priced at $49.99 (ZDNet)

“Millions of customers love Alexa, and we’re thrilled to introduce her to the UK and Germany,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices and Services, in a press release.

The new Echo Dot will be offered for individual purchase, or sold in six-packs, in a “buy five, get one free” deal, or in 12-packs, with two free Echo Dots included with the purchase of 10.

In the UK the Echo is available for £149.99, and the company said it will be shipping “in the coming weeks.” In Germany it will cost 179.99 euros, according to ZDNet.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. On Wednesday, Amazon introduced a new, more compact Echo device, called the Echo Dot, for $49.99.
  2. Amazon also announced on Wednesday that it is expanding Alexa, Echo, and the Echo Dot into the UK and Germany.
  3. This comes after yesterday’s announcement of the partnership with GE Appliances, further showing the push that Amazon is making in the smart home market.

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