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Will Amazon offer cut-rate music streaming for Echo? (+video)

Amazon is said to be planning a $5-per-month music service exclusively for Echo owners. 

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Amazon's Echo is a digital assistant that can be set up in a home or office to listen for various requests, such as for a song, a sports score, the weather, or even a book to be read aloud.

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Amazon has entered negotiations to change its music offerings dramatically by creating not only a widely available expanded streaming service but also a low-priced option for loyal users of Amazon products.

Amazon plans to offer the newest subscription music streaming service at its trademark rock-bottom prices. In a sign of how the online giant uses its market pull to reel in and reward committed fans, Amazon will offer this service only to Amazon Echo owners.

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With no web or even smartphone option, the $4 or $5 – the distinction is currently under negotiations – streaming service will be limited to those who purchase the at-home voice-activated Echo speaker. The hardware already offers Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, but its previously limited Prime Music service is set for an upgrade, Tech Crunch reported.

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Either way, this technology would go for half the price of Apple Music, Spotify, and streaming services generally. The expanded music-streaming plan doubles as a marketing push for Echo, a multi-purpose new offering under continuing development that can control smart-home technologies and even make a shopping list, as Christina Beck reported for The Christian Science Monitor:

Place it in your living room and forget about it – until you want something, that is. Then, because the Echo is always on and responds to voice commands alone, all you have to do is speak to it.

The Echo performs many of the same functions as smartphones, including providing users with up to date traffic, weather, and news information. Echo users can also ask their devices to play music or update them on the outcome of last night’s game.

The service, tentatively set for a September launch, adds another feature to the line-up, Recode reported, answering criticism about the device's small catalog. It would enable the voice-activated Echo task manager, called Alexa, to add music streaming at half the price of competing services to "her" resume of offerings. 

It's a bold move to undercut competition with always-on, ubiquitous technology that can lead users to "start to want pretty much everything else in life to be Alexa-enabled, too," New York Times reviewer Farhad Manjoo wrote.

"Echo is part of this new movement of smart technology, and our dependence on that technology grows depending on how much we use it," psychologist and tech addiction expert Dr. Kimberley Young told The Christian Science Monitor.

Amazon is also set to simultaneously launch a separate, more traditional streaming service at a cost of $10 in September, Fast Company reported. This service would offer ad-free music across devices with a download option for web-free listening. Available to non-Echo owners via web and smartphone, the service could compete more directly with Spotify and Apple Music and mark yet another sign of how deeply integrated Amazon is into many aspects of modern life.

"It's becoming more and more clear that Amazon wants to provide the operating system we use for both our online and offline lives all day, every day," Fast Company commented.

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Both the revamped Amazon streaming and the Echo-only service could further affect the changing music industry's model and ownership, allowing Amazon the opportunity to more firmly fix its logo upon it.


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