Online retailer named tech company of the year

The company's most innovative product of the year is perhaps the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker announced in November.

Amazon has been named tech company of 2014 in the midst of various companies with innovative consumer tech trends and products.

Recently, Google's chairman, Eric Schmidt, singled out the online retailer as his company's biggest direct competitor.

"Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo," he said during a visit to a Native Instruments, software and hardware company in Berlin. "But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon."

As well as search, Amazon is starting to compete with both Google and Apple in various areas.

The company's most innovative product of the year is perhaps the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker announced in November. It is the sort of thing expected to emerge from one of Google's top secret labs.

Always listening, the Echo doubles as a personal assistant able to answer questions and perform web searches and keep users abreast of current affairs, traffic news and the weather.

This made TechCrunch's Darrell Etherington to say: "The whole thing is a tad baffling, but also intriguing in that it's fairly unique among major tech company product introductions."

Aside from positioning itself at the center of the Internet of Things, Amazon is also proving it knows a thing or two about how to make a tablet that people actually want and value. Its growing range of Kindle eReaders and Fire tablets -- which this year expanded again to include a 6-inch model and a new colourful, toughened device aimed at children -- beat the iPad into second place in October's JD Power tablet satisfaction awards.

It doesn't always get things right — the Fire Phone, the smartphone with a 3D screen launched this summer — was universally panned. But the company that Jeff Bezos built simply dusts itself off and tries something else instead.

As well as launching more new devices in 2014 than Apple — it has also rolled out a smart set-top box and a streaming dongle this year as well as a smartphone compatible credit card reader — Amazon has opened its own computer games studio, launched its own virtual currency, started producing original kids' TV shows, launched its own music streaming service and is about to start offering customers 4K ultra-high-definition video content. And in doing so is positioning itself as a rival and alternative to everything and everyone from Netflix to Spotify.

One of Amazon's latest ventures, currently being tested in select US states, is to offer customers access to a handyman or other expert when buying a product or device from its site that needs professional installation. Last week, the retail company also launched a line of premium everyday products called Amazon Elements for its Prime subscribers, starting with diapers with other goods to follow.

As for the year ahead, the company is looking to open its first physical store, in New York; to move into the travel and hospitality market with its first hotel booking service; and to start seriously testing the capabilities of drones for making deliveries at its R1D facility in Cambridge, UK.

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