Pourquoi l’acquisition des robots aspirateurs Roomba par Amazon est étrange

Pourquoi l'acquisition des robots aspirateurs Roomba par Amazon est étrange

Once again, Amazon is putting its hands in the wallet to expand its empire. On August 5, the tech giant paid $1.7 billion to buy iRobot, the maker of self-contained Roomba vacuum cleaners. It will pay $61 per share, or 22% more than the share price the day before the announcement, but also twice less than its peak, reached in February 2021. Beyond the financial transaction, the acquisition raises questions about Amazon’s strategy.

Secrets of Amazon’s global ambitions

Bots that don’t make money

iRobot’s small disk-shaped robots have the ability to map up to ten rooms in the house, vacuuming dust autonomously, without bumping into furniture. A pioneer in its market, iRobot was still the overwhelming leader in 2020, but new entrants cutting prices like Roborock, LG, Samsung or Shark are cutting it.

At the same time, demand for its products is plummeting under the weight of inflation: In the second quarter, iRobot’s revenue fell 30% from last year to $255.4 million. Worse still, in the first six months of the year, the company posted a net loss of $73.8 million, compared to $4.7 million in net profit in the first half of 2022. In short: with the drop in the increased demand and competition that is cutting into margins, Roomba has yet to sustain its profitability. And it’s not the connected mop or the iRobot handheld vacuum that will be enough to lift the group’s numbers.

Amazon invests in a market far from its core business

In addition to the choice of the company, the operation questions Amazon’s strategy. The technological giant is relaunching itself in a market, that of connected objects, in which it has not continued with its investments since the purchase of Ring doorbells and surveillance cameras in 2018. Today, the group makes its billing in three markets: e-commerce, the cloud (where it makes most of its profits), and online advertising. Its product branch, represented by the Echo range and Ring products, weighs nothing compared to these three pillars.

The group invested heavily in the late 2010s in the Alexa connected assistant to become the voice control center of the connected home (lights, TV, speakers, electric shutters, etc.). The goal: to make integration easy so you can order as many items as possible. In other words, for Amazon, the connected home marketplace is a data marketplace, which it can turn into e-commerce and advertising, rather than a product marketplace. Alexa allows Amazon to collect even more information about consumers and direct their purchases to its ecosystem (e-commerce, music, video, etc.). Their rare products, like speakers, go in this direction.

The spectrum of privacy dangers

To justify the acquisition, analysts are trying to find strategic advantages. Some see it as a novelty. how to generate amazon prime subscriptions (the backbone of the company’s model) through exclusive discounts on Roomba products, available only to subscribers. Others speculate that iRobot’s software expertise could shore up the operation of Astro, the pricey ($1,500) multipurpose robot, but which currently does everything wrong. According to the first comments from the press, he is struggling in particular to move around the house. In tests with a handful of clients since September 2021, he may never be introduced to the general public.

Ultimately, privacy advocates see the acquisition as a way for Amazon to gain access to mapping data from users’ apartments and homes. Data that you would use to further refine your recommendation algorithms and drive your e-commerce. Robert Weissman, president of the NGO Public Citizen, therefore asks the regulators to prevent the transaction with a good word: The last thing Americans and the world need is for Amazon to absorb even more personal information. “. iRobot indicates to Business Insider that it has not sold the data to third parties, and that it does not exploit it outside of the uses that customers have consented to by signing the general conditions of use. But does Amazon really need consumer soil information? And more importantly, would you spend $1.7 billion just to get them?