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Amazon snaps up Siri-esque Evi — but why?

Bezos Kindle Touch

What could Amazon do with its own virtual assistant app?

Amazon has reportedly purchased Evi, a British startup that has developed its own spin on Apple’s Siri, for $26 million, TechCrunch reports.

Naturally, Evi, its investors Octopus Ventures, and Amazon aren’t commenting on the deal. But public records show that something definitely went down between Evi and Amazon. The companies now share the same Company Secretary and Mitre Secretaries, and Octopus Ventures’ records show that they’ve disposed of their shares in the company.

The acquisition of Evi is particularly interesting considering Amazon bought the text-to-speech company Ivona Software in January. Amazon is already using Ivona’s software for the Kindle Fire’s voice guide, but it also has plenty of potential to help make Evi’s virtual assistant client even smarter.

Amazon has been rumored to be working on a smartphone since last year. But in the aftermath of Facebook Home, I wonder if Amazon even needs to play the hardware game at all. The company’s Kindle Fire was a smashing success because there weren’t any other inexpensive tablets on the market — that’s certainly not the case for Android handsets.

Like Facebook, Amazon already has popular apps on every mobile platform. And also just like Facebook, it’s in Amazon’s best interest to keep users in its apps as long as possible. Perhaps we could see Amazon transform Evi’s technology into more of a virtual shopping assistant (that’s also smart enough to tell you the weather and random trivia).

Imagine asking Amazon’s app to find you the best deals for Mother’s Day. Since Amazon already gives you recommendations based on your purchase history, its virtual shopping assistant could be like a friendly shopping buddy who knows your size and tastes.

At this point, Amazon’s plans are still a mystery. But making its apps more fun and engaging makes a lot more sense then spewing out another Android phone.

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat.