Amazon is buying iRobot, the creator of the Roomba robot vacuum

Amazon just took a big step to conquer the home robot market. The company has reached an agreement to acquire iRobot, the developer of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. The purchase has a present value of $1.7 billion and will retain Colin Angle as CEO of iRobot. The two firms have not said when they expect to close the transaction, but that is subject to approval by both iRobot shareholders and regulators.

When announcing the deal, Amazon didn’t spell out its exact plans. Amazon Devices senior vice president Dave Limp focused on iRobot’s ability to “reinvent the way people clean,” and said he’s looking forward to inventing products. Angle said Amazon shares iRobot’s “passion” for innovative home products and felt the internet giant would be a good fit.

A successful merger ends iRobot’s 32-year independence. The company was founded in 1990 by MIT researchers and initially focused on military robots like PackBot. It marked a major turning point in 2002 when it introduced the first Roomba – the Robovac quickly became popular and increased sales
one million units by 2004. The company expanded its offerings to include products such as robot mops (Braava) and became so successful that it sold its military business in 2016.

iRobot has had a tough few months. While it’s generally done well in recent years, the company posted a loss in its most recent quarter and saw both its revenue and cash reserves shrink. It also warned of weaker growth due to the potential impact of inflation and lower customer demand in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The company hoped it could return to profitability and even exceed its earlier expectations, but with Amazon’s help, it might not have to worry as much.

The deal could turn the home robotics market upside down. iRobot has stiff competition these days, including Anker’s Eufy brand, Neato, Roborock, Shark, and Wyze. Amazon would not only give iRobot more resources to fend off competitors, but also much more marketing – it’s safe to assume Amazon would promote iRobot products over the alternatives. From the looks of it, Amazon could use the acquisition to power projects like its Astro companion or a growing legion of warehouse robots.

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