As everyone jumps into the world of personal assistants, Amazon’s Alexa is the clear winner, what’s Amazon’s secret?
Amazon first released the Amazon Echo in at the end of 2014, I thought it was nothing more than a novelty. At that point, we already had personal assistants on our smartphones, and to be honest, they just didn’t really work that well. Why would I want a tube that sat on my desk that didn’t understand what I wanted when I already had a phone that didn’t understand what I wanted? I knew that this was a category of gadget I had no interest in, and wouldn’t be purchasing. Then I met Alexa, and everything changed.
Alexa did understand what I said. She actually answered what I asked, and she seemed to do so with personality. Make no mistake, at that point, the capabilities were still very limited, but it seemed that these built in capabilities grew daily, along with it’s “skills” which are the equivalent of apps for the device. While I began to see the attraction to the devices, I still kept from picking one up for myself, because it just wasn’t quite there for me yet. Then Amazon brought out the second version of the Amazon Dot. This was everything of the Amazon Echo, but in a much smaller format. I really is just a case of taking the Amazon Echo, subtracting the nice speaker, add the ability to connect to external speakers, and end up with the Amazon Dot. The Dot is an extremely affordable option and I decided to give it a try. I ended up really loving this little gadget. It was no longer a novelty, but a very useful productivity tool, and a source of entertainment. I now have my original Dot, an Amazon Tap which brings Alexa in a portable format with a surprisingly good speaker, the Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa, and I even have it on my BlackBerry smartphone in the form of the Reverb android app. Alexa is also available from within the Amazon Shopping app, giving you another way to utilize the service on a smartphone.
I wasn’t the only one to take notice. Other manufacturers did as well, and are entering the arena with their own products. Google brought Google Home, which brought the Google Assistant we’re used to on Android phones into a desktop product that looks a little like something that you would store the remains of a deceased relative in. I’ll give Google credit, their assistant is good. Really good. But it just doesn’t seem to have the personality that Alexa does, and is more limited than Alexa. I wouldn’t hold my breath that it stays that way though, as Google has the money to bring it up to par quickly.
Apple is also breaking in to the category with the HomePod. The name is not the most ridiculous aspect of this product. This product that looks far too much like a travel pillow packs Siri, which is a detriment in itself. While Siri brought virtual personal assistant’s to a new level, it stayed at that level as everyone else surpassed it. Siri really is a joke at this point. And that’s still not the most ridiculous aspect. That of course, is the price. The HomePod carries a price tag of $349. For that price, you can purchase three Amazon Echo’s and throw in an Amazon Dot just for fun. Apple is pushing that the HomePod brings a better sound experience. Personally, I think you could pick up some really decent stereo speakers, connect them to a Dot, and still have cash left over to purchase new music to listen to. Only Apple users immersed in the Apple ecosystem (in other words, those that don’t understand there are better and more affordable products out there) will be interested in the HomePod.
Now it appears that even Samsung is looking at bringing their own version to the market, and we know that this will be powered by their Bixby assistant.
As these mobile tech super powers bring their own products to market, how will online retailer and creator of the failed Fire Phone be able to compete? In my opinion, Amazon is already on top, and has no fear of losing that spot any time soon, and it’s all because they are utilizing a completely different method than their competitors. You can say it’s the polar opposite approach of Apple. I’d actually call it the BlackBerry approach.
While Apple utilizes a closed platform hoping to keep people trapped in their Apple prison, Alexa is instead going cross platform. Like BlackBerry who now offers their software platform not only to BlackBerry branded phones, but to all enterprise endpoints, and completely different categories such as fleet tracking and auto, Amazon is putting Alexa on, well, anything!
Alexa has partnered with numerous home automation platforms, more than any other product, ensuring that users can control their smartphone simply by speaking to Alexa. But they didn’t stop at simply enabling communications with other platforms, they gave their platform away. Other manufacturers are producing their own Alexa enabled speakers, some that are nearly identical to Amazon’s offerings. Some are even cheaper than Amazon’s products, and some even offer a few more features. For instance, Fabriq speakers are capable of playing music through multiple linked speakers, this is something Amazon’s own speakers cannot do yet. This ensures that Alexa will own the market. People are buying in to the platform, even if they’re buying other products. And they’re not stopping there.
Today it was announced that Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana will soon be able to speak to each other. User’s will be able to tell Cortana to open Alexa, (or the reverse if you actually use Cortana) and utilize the service as you would from any other device. This means that soon, I will be able to speak to Alexa from my laptop as well.
Amazon is bringing new skills and capabilities to their platform nearly daily, and yet that’s not the impressive part. The impressive part is that they are making Alexa the quintessential virtual personal assistant, by ensuring that users are able to use it no matter where they’re at or what device they’re on. In effect, Amazon is succeeding in no uncertain terms by doing something which Apple would never do.
Good job Amazon.