Amazon, the major tech giant has announced that it will acquire iRobot, a popular vacuum cleaner maker iRobot for around $1.7 billion. With this move, Amazon has added another company that creates home appliances in its collection. This has attracted the attention of privacy and anti-monopoly advocates who claim that Amazon’s increasing ability to gain deeper insights into consumers’ lives is a matter of growing concern.
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Amazon’s strategy to go beyond retail
iRobot has a global clientele and its star product is the circular-shaped Roomba vacuum. This move will enable Amazon to make inroads in the home space via services and broaden its portfolio beyond retail. The addition of iRobot will strengthen the company’s tech arsenal, involving it more in consumers’ lives beyond static things such as voice control.
Roomba’s latest product offerings leverage sensors to map and remember a home floor’s plan. This gives Amazon access to abundant data which they can use in conjunction with other products. Last year, Amazon announced the launch of the Astro robot, which assists with tasks such as setting an alarm. However, due to poor response, the company has limited its rollout.
In the past, Amazon has not been able to make a mark in the household robots space. However, the acquisition of iRobot is likely to change that and help it establish a strong presence in the consumer robot market. This move could potentially help Amazon replicate the success of its Echo line of smart speakers.
Rough times for consumer robotics vendors
It appears that consumer robotics vendors such as iRobot are marred with different challenges. For starters, most vendors are not able to expand their offerings beyond a niche product. In addition, the stiff competition from Korean and Chinese manufacturers who offer cheaper versions is another major roadblock, hindering the growth of these companies.
Anti-monopoly advocates raise concerns
Anti-monopoly advocates continue to raise concerns amidst Amazon’s aggressive pursuit to establish a presence in the consumer robots space. Multiple groups who urge stricter antitrust regulations have made attempts to block Amazon’s recent acquisition. They believe that iRobot’s acquisition will provide Amazon uncontested access into consumers’ lives and enhance its dominance in the smart home market.
Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, a progressive consumer rights advocacy group says that the last thing we need right now is Amazon getting additional access to the personal data of its customers. He said that this is not entirely about Amazon offering another product in the marketplace, but about gaining access to sensitive information about the daily lives of its customers.
Major antitrust legislation aimed against Amazon and other Big Tech corporations has already been frozen in Congress for months as the prospect of a vote by the entire Senate or House has decreased. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it is fair what Amazon is doing? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.
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Feature Image Source: iRobot