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Amazon Tests Smart Home Gadgets, Expands Hardware Lab

Amazon will boost staffing at its secretive Silicon Valley-based hardware unit by at least 27 percent over the next five years as it tests Internet-connected "smart" home gadgets such as a one-button device to order supplies. The plans, detailed in a little-known government document and by people familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters, signal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos's intentions to double down on the No. 1 U.S. online retailer's hardware strategy. This is despite the lukewarm reception of Amazon's new Fire smart phone and some investors' criticism of its heavy spending on highly experimental projects. The Lab126 division, which developed Amazon's Kindle and other consumer electronics devices, plans to boost its full-time payroll to at least 3,757 people by 2019, according to the agreement reached with California in June. Amazon will invest $55 million in Lab126's operations in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, the agreement posted on the California governor's website shows. This expansion comes as Lab126 tests connected-home devices that could open up a new front in its war against Google and Apple, two people familiar with Lab126's activities said recently.

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--- Reuters