One thing you can laud Amazon for is that there was very little leaked information on the Amazon Echo before it came out. If you search Google News for articles on Amazon and voice in the year prior, you’ll get speculation off of big moves but nothing that would point to the Echo. People thought the next Fire Phone was coming out.
In the lead up to the Echo, Amazon had at least three acquisitions that contribution technology: IVONA for text to speech, Evi for AI, and Yap for voice recognition. There was also the Amazon Dash Fresh wand that had come out. However, on that frightful November morning in 2014, no one really knew Amazon was to launch the proud.
Most of the leaks around tech these days are the next X: the iPhone 8, Samsung S9, Pixel 2, etc. We already start to imagine what these devices are and how they’d look and there are known channels through which they’ll be developed.
Google Glass had some leaks before it was announced. Speculating, it’s possible because Google’s culture is younger and Google Glass’ connection to Google’s mission was tenuous at best. So maybe people wanted to share more the cool project they were working on? The Echo however has a direct line to Amazon’s revenues. The Echo was also something completely outlandish for it to undertake from a rational argument. People would think you were crazy for speculating (none of the dozens of VCs we had met with mentioned Amazon as a potential competitor to the Ubi).
If there is some takeaway for avoiding leaks in tech, it might be:
- Do something that people wouldn’t even believe you’re working on if it were leaked.
- Have it directly tied to the company’s mission so that people know what’s at stake if the advantage of surprise is lost.