There was a recent policy change at Amazon which I hate, and as a result, I have removed the Amazon Echo (Alexa) devices and app from my life. It does mean I’ll be carrying my phone with me more.
A part of the Vision Statement for Amazon is “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company”. Well, this change in policy belies that; trying to annoy their customers for more money is the new practice. That’s the nice way to put it; predation is the stark reality.
So, what happened?
- Amazon Music started inserting audio advertising into my morning music play. This happened four days ago.
- Amazon raised their prices on Prime membership, and I opted-out at the beginning of October (about one month ago).
I’ve mentioned before that I hate bullies, and dislike advertising. I also really liked setting up my morning wakeup routine to start the day with inspirational music. This change by Amazon crossed all three lines.
So if my morning wakeup routine is spoiled anyway, what really do I need these devices for?
Other than as voice controlled light switches, they are sometimes a convenient voice controlled timer. I don’t need this – it’s a nicety at best.
The bargain was they would listen in, the app on my phone would do tracking, and Amazon would do (whatever) with that data. I assumed they were monetizing it somehow; that was fine – that was the bargain. But now that they’ve crossed the line and spoiled my morning wakeup routine, I’m out.
Really, the only power consumers have is the power of money; either the boycott or favored trade.
Part of the annoyance is that I purchased the .mp3 files outright. I made my playlists out of only these files. Yes, I wanted the artists to get paid for their work, and thought is was only fair that Amazon also got paid for doing the work to set up the deal, import the files and handle the transactions to the artists. My point is that I paid for these files. Anyone that would wrap my files inside their advertising is a bully / predator.
This morning, the advertisement specifically said “Buy Amazon Music Unlimited and you won’t get advertisements”. Or, I can just completely opt out. Spotify costs the same as Amazon Music Unlimited, they do have Joe Rogan, and they have an API I can use to create my morning playlist programatically.
In that way, Spotify is better: I can write a Python script to classify songs into lists, and pick two from the spirtitual category, one from the energetic category, build today’s list and program Spotify to play that. I could even then put the songs in a FIFO queue (perhaps with some randomization). Much better than anything I could get with Amazon Music.
It’s not lost on me that the Open Source community has a project, Mycroft, which would let me connect to my IoT devices without the data tracking which was the part of the Amazon Echo bargain. I’ve already got one Raspberry Pi. All it really needs is a microphone. Guess what I’ve got on order?
Maybe I don’t even need Spotify. Maybe I can just get Mycroft or Home Assistant to play .mp3 files on various Bluetooth connected devices.
Until I get that set up, I’ll have to use my phone apps for controlling the lights and keeping timers. This is a minor inconvenience at worst. And if eventually I hook Mycroft up to a Home Assistant and a Magic Mirror, the better.