Six new devices unveiled by Amazon threaten to up the ante in the company's smart-tech competition with Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung. During an event at its Seattle headquarters yesterday, Amazon announced a new hardware lineup that includes an updated Echo smart speaker, an Echo Plus that can automatically connect with and manage other smart-home devices, and a smaller smart speaker with a screen called the Echo Spot.

Other new Amazon devices include the 4K Amazon Fire TV digital media player, Echo Buttons for playing interactive games via Echo devices, and Echo Connect, an accessory that integrates with home phone lines to enable hands-free calling.

Available for pre-ordering now, the $99.99 Echo, $149.99 Echo Plus (pictured above), and $69.99 Amazon Fire TV are all scheduled to ship sometime next month. The $34.99 Echo Connect and $129.99 Echo Spot are expected to arrive on the market in December; the Echo Buttons, to be priced at two for $19.99, are awaiting approval by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, although Amazon said the devices will "arrive in time for the holidays."

Dueling AIs

As the world's largest online retailer and cloud services provider, Amazon operates in a different space from other tech giants. However, its latest devices could bring heightened competitive worries to Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others, in part because of Amazon's large reach and typically lower-cost pricing.

Guided by CEO Sundar Pichai's mission to make artificial intelligence (AI) "work for everyone," Google, for instance, is working to broaden use of its intelligent agent Google Assistant -- its analog to Amazon's Alexa -- through its own smart-home speaker, Google Home. And the new 4K Amazon Fire TV poses a direct threat to Apple's new digital media player, Apple TV 4K, which was announced earlier this month and arrived in stores last Friday.

Writing today in ZDNet, Steve Ranger called Amazon's latest Echo announcements a "land grab" for leadership in the smart-home device space.

"Amazon sells its hardware cheap because making money that way is not (at least for now) its priority," he said. "This is a land-grab; whichever company reaches enough homes fast enough will become the effective standard."

The wider Amazon Alexa's reach into people's devices and homes becomes, the greater the threat it also poses to other intelligent assistants such as Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Samsung's Bixby.

Enterprise Deals with BMW, Randstad

Amazon yesterday also announced two big wins on the enterprise side of its business: a new deal with BMW to integrate Alexa into its vehicles, and a plan by staffing and recruitment company Randstad to move its IT infrastructure onto Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Under the BMW partnership, the Germany-based automaker expects to start making Amazon Alexa available in its BMW and Mini vehicles started in mid-2018. Alexa's assistance will be available via voice commands and will also be integrated with in-car Relevant Products/Services visual control displays. The integration will let drivers ask for directions, launch phone calls, listen to music or news, check weather forecasts, and remotely control smart devices in their homes.

The Randstad deal, meanwhile, will see the company move its entire global IT infrastructure to AWS over the coming year. Randstad said the migration is aimed at improving efficiencies and costs and aligning its infrastructure with its digital transformation and innovation goals.