Sharp Home Electronics Co. of America (SHCA), whose countertop microwave ovens are perennially popular among a wide range of consumers, is now upping the ante in terms of features and performance for this small-appliance category, with the announcement that it would begin shipping by the third week in December two new Wi-Fi-enabled models featuring Works with Alexa voice command compatibility when using the Alexa app or an Alexa-enabled device such as an Amazon Echo Dot.
Sharp enjoys a solid foothold in this appliance area with its existing models, and is expanding its unique partnership with Orville Redenbacher – its current ovens have a setting designed to optimize the popping performance of that brand’s microwave popcorn. Both new Alexa-enabled models are also “tuned” for the popcorn brand.
Models set to debut include the mid-sized 1.1-cubic-foot SMC1139FS ($149.99), which is endowed with the ability to respond to 30 Alexa voice commands, and the 1.4-cubic-foot family-sized SMC1449FS ($169.99), which can answer to 70 specific Alexa commands. The sheer quantity of the preset commands “shows our commitment to the cooking space. These are fully in tune with Sharp’s ‘first-to-the-market’ mentality,” Jim Sanduski, president of SHCA, tells Dealerscope, adding that they are the product of both Sharp engineering acumen and a collaboration of more than a year with the Alexa team.
“These models make Alexa even smarter,” he says. “They take the microwave oven to the next level – to the gourmet level.”
Sanduski also points out that they surpass earlier Alexa-enabled microwave ovens in the market in that they offer a more generous internal cavity size. What is more, their functionality is enriched with numerous cooking presets (10 on the smaller model and 50 on the larger model) for foods that are not listed on the control panel. Users can command the units to start or stop, can add minutes to the cooking cycle, and even request a different power level.
“Our timing with these products is great,” Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Sharp Electronics Marketing Co. of America, tells Dealerscope. “With more than 80 million people in the U.S. who have smart speakers, 70 percent of those being Alexa-enabled, it works out to one in five people in America who are primed for products such as this that connect.”
Even more than that, Weedfald adds, these modes “meet the Sharp ‘Simply Better Living’ brand promise.
“This is a real win for us,” he continues, noting that Sharp has sold 140 million countertop microwave ovens globally since 1962, and how these new models serve to cement Sharp’s heritage and leadership in the category. He says that Sharp is planning a strong launch program to support their introduction.
In addition to being Alexa-enabled, the units feature One-Touch controls, Express Cook, and the Sharp Carousel turntable system, along with an easy-to-clean, brushed stainless steel finish. Wi-Fi, once connected, will even set the correct time on the white LED front display.
Nancy is a contributing editor for Dealerscope.