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Amazon says its Echo devices were hot sellers during its ‘best ever’ holiday season

Amazon Echo
Amazon’s voice-activated Echo smart-home speaker.
(Amazon)

Amazon.com Inc.'s Echo voice-activated artificial-intelligence devices were the stars of what the e-commerce behemoth is calling its “best ever” holiday season.

Seattle-based Amazon said the Echo family of devices sold by the “millions,” at a rate nine times greater than during last year’s holiday season. The Echo is a home speaker through which Amazon’s customers interface with Alexa, a voice-activated software assistant; it became widely available to U.S. customers in summer 2015. A smaller version, which connects to speakers, is dubbed the Echo Dot; it was unveiled earlier this year. 

“Echo and Echo Dot were the bestselling products across Amazon this year,” Jeff Wilke, the head of Amazon’s consumer division, said in a statement.

Wilke said the company, despite ramping up production of the Echo line, “still had trouble keeping them in stock.”

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Amazon’s comments come amid increased competition in the artificial-intelligence arena from a number of companies including Alphabet Inc.'s Google, which recently launched a home speaker that’s similar to the Echo. The stakes are high, as experts say voice-activated interfaces point to the future of computing.

Read more: Amazon and Google want you to get a digital home assistant — even if you didn’t ask for one »

Amazon didn’t give out specific numbers, but its disclosure, along with a litany of other shopping facts released Tuesday, hinted at a profitable performance by a retailer that researchers say dominated online shopping during the holiday shopping frenzy.

Analysts expect Amazon to rake in fourth-quarter revenue of $44.71 billion. That’s 25% more than in the same quarter last year.

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The company said shipping activity, which peaked Dec. 19, was “record breaking” during the holiday season. Amazon said it shipped more than 1 billion items worldwide under its Prime loyalty program this holiday season, including products shipped by third-party merchants and fulfilled by Amazon.

Gonzalez writes for the Seattle Times/McClatchy.

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