Re: "to the Charlie Stross envisioned world from Halting State and Rule 34"
The difference with Amazon is interesting. While Google produced Glass, and never seemed to quite know what to do with it, Amazon are amazingly focused with Echo.
I got one for Christmas, and it's unplugged and unloved. I'll probably find someone to give it to who'll find it useful.
Because it only seems to have two use cases. Using Amazon music (which I'm not signed up to) and operating smart lighbulbs and the like (which I don't have).
I suppose there's always shopping, but you can only say "buy me a dolls house", and leave Amazon to pick which one you get, if you're very brave or very rich. I guess if you use their grocery shopping, you're just adding to an existing list, so it's good.
Other than that, I get an email every week saying all the new things it can do, which mostly amount to not a lot.
So for example you can use it to wake you up. "Echo wake me up at 7am". But you can't add to that command. So you can't say, "wake me up with the radio, or a particular song or playlist - which is pretty bloody useless in my book.
Or you can say "Echo give me the news" and it reads you the crappiest list of about 3 almost totally random headlines - maybe that's improved in the last 6 months but I doubt it.
But if I want a recipe for say ginger biscuits, it's both still quicker and more reliable to pick up my phone/tablet and search than it is to use the Echo. Or just go to one of my cook books. And it's not much slower to launch my music from my phone/tablet - although if I'm cooking I have to wait until I have a clean enough free hand, but really that's not enough of a problem to want to spend money to solve.