Amazon Echo smart speakers pick up Pandora Premium music streaming, Skype voice and video calling

One of the great things about the Amazon Echo ecosystem is the ability to set your preferred music streaming service — not just Amazon’s. Starting today, Amazon Echo smart speakers and other Alexa-enabled speakers now work with Pandora Premium, the personalized radio station service’s version of Apple Music. Amazon Echo speakers and screens are also gaining support for Skype audio and video calling just in time for the holidays.

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Pandora announced Alexa support for its on-demand music streaming service today:

Premium users can now play their favorite songs, albums and playlists with simple Alexa voice commands, providing for the ultimate hands-free music experience this holiday season. […] Don’t know what song to play next? Keep Pandora on AutoPlay for continuous holiday jams. For easier voice controls, set Pandora as your default music streaming service on Alexa and enjoy your music, your way. Check out Pandora’s curated Featured Playlists, and support for your unique Personalized Soundtracks will be coming soon, so you can keep the “sound on” for any occasion.

Pandora Premium joined the on-demand music business late (after absorbing Rdio) which makes it harder to compete with Spotify and Apple Music, but fully supporting Alexa and the Echo ecosystem helps it catch up with Spotify. Pandora Premium starts at $9.99/month for individuals and $14.99/month for families after a 60-day free trial.

Pandora Premium is also available on iPhone and iPad, but playing music back from the HomePod will require AirPlay since Apple only supports its own music service. Pandora has also started building out what it called the Podcast Genome Project for recommending podcast episodes to users similar to its personalized music recommendation engine.

Echo speakers and screens will also gain support for Skype audio and video calling thanks to a growing partnership between Microsoft and Amazon, The Verge reports. Speakers will be limited to voice calling, of course, but both Echo Spot and Echo Show will work with hands-free video calling.

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