Updated February 3, 2015:
Amazon has released an update to the Echo which permits more variety in its wireless streaming channels.
Amazon Echo's Alexa is the new kid on the block -- assuming that block is peopled with personal assistant wannabes like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google. (I guess when your brand name is already a verb, you don't feel the need to give your disembodied voice a name. OK, Google?) The Echo is a cylindrical speaker/web interface that responds to voice commands preceded by its name, Alexa.
Voice-controlled personal assistants are portrayed in the movies as being much smarter than their real life counterparts. As it stands now, you can only order Alexa to play music, look up a fact in Wikipedia, or give you a news and weather report. Here are a couple of ways to get more out of Echo right now.
Play any streaming music you like
Out of the box, Echo is only programmed to work with Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. That means you can tell Alexa play music, stop, or play certain artists -- but only for these services.
However, if you don't mind controlling the music with your tablet or phone instead of your voice, you can get Echo to work like a excellent Bluetooth speaker with any music site that you can stream through a WiFi device. Thus, you can also listen to Spotify, Pandora, or audio books -- and it's even easy to set up.
According to CNET, all you have to do is say to the Echo: "Alexa, pair Bluetooth." Then, follow her instructions to pair your device with the Echo's speaker.
From there, you can play, pause, or otherwise control your music from the paired device. Remember that the Echo's voice commands won't work for your device -- at least not yet.
While I may not ever want a personal assistant that develops emotions, would it be too much for me to ask it to make me a sandwich? Let's get on that!