Has Amazon finally gone cuckoo? Bezos' behemoth turns to crowdfunding for Alexa-powered timepiece

If you 'Build It', they will come

In less than three decades, Amazon has taken a wrecking ball to dozens of industries from retail and groceries, to logistics and web hosting. And now it's settled on its next victim: the cuckoo clock industry.

No, really. Amazon is dipping a toe into an sector most keenly associated with lederhosen-wearing artisans toiling in some German-speaking corner of Europe. And while this may seem like a logical step on the Seattle bookseller's path to world domination – Amazon ultimately wants to become the Everything Store – it's unusual for a few reasons.

Firstly, Amazon's Smart Cuckoo Clock has support for the Alexa voice assistant built in. You could have probably guessed that from its name. That said, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at it. The device otherwise looks like a standard (albeit fancy) piece of timekeeping kit, something you'd buy in a chintzy tourist trap for your nan.

Unlike the Echo Show, there's no built-in screen – just a standard 12-hour clock face. A pendulum sits underneath while perched in the "roof" is an all-white mechanical bird, ready to burst out when your alarm finishes its countdown. The Smart Cuckoo Clock is powered by four C-type batteries, and requires another Echo device to work.

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Secondly, and perhaps most bizarrely of all, Amazon has opted to crowdfund the creation of the clock along with two other products: a "smart" nutritional scale and an Alexa-powered thermal sticky note printer.

Rather than use an established crowdfunding platform, like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, Amazon opted to launch its own programme, called Build It. The basic premise remains the same, however. Punters can "back" one of the projects by pre-ordering it. If enough orders roll in by the deadline of March 16, Amazon will charge the user's credit card and begin production.

As one of the world's most valuable companies, with $125.56bn worth of revenue in Q4 2020 alone, Amazon's embrace of crowdfunding is a bit of a head-scratcher. Businesses that use it tend to be fledgling hardware startups without the initial capital to start production, or fly-by-night bad actors trying to make a quick buck.

Obviously, Amazon fits into neither of those categories. Instead, it's seemingly trying to gauge interest in a product before it orders a full production run, lest it end up with warehouses packed to the gills with unsold novelty clocks. By testing the waters, the Smart Cuckoo Clock is less likely to suffer the ignominious fate that befell the Apple Lisa and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

The Smart Cuckoo Clock has a pre-order price of $79.99. The nutritional scale and sticky note printer are set to retail at $34.99 and $89.99 respectively. UK-based chronometer fans will be saddened to learn availability is limited to the US. ®

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