Intelligent personal assistants are becoming increasingly important to technology companies. Amazon (AMZN) is pushing its Alexa in a big way, determined to overcome its late arrival to the game by becoming the voice search engine used by everybody.
Fresh on the heels of its Alexa-powered Echo speaker, Amazon has announced free Alexa integration for third party hardware developers. On top of that, the company has created the Alexa Fund, offering up $100 million to support those efforts. AMZN has already invested in seven projects that will incorporate its voice assistance technology, including Scout Alarm — a home security system — and Orange Chef’s countertop mobile app for cooking.
Amazon is late to the party with Alexa, but it’s trying to overtake Siri and company by not only making it free to use for virtually anyone — in hardware, software or an app — but also ponying up the cash to help anyone from a startup to an established manufacturer bake Alexa voice capability into their products.
If Amazon’s plan works, Siri may be the default personal assistant on your iPhone, but many of the apps Apple’s smartphone runs and the devices around your home that will be ready to answer your questions will be powered by Alexa.
Why the Push to Make Alexa Ubiquitous?
When people use Google Now or Cortana, they aren’t just checking traffic conditions. When they interact with Siri, it’s not all about asking for movie times or trying to trick it into revealing one of the Easter eggs hidden by Apple’s developers. Intelligent personal assistants have evolved beyond party tricks and simple commands and are on track to becoming the way people search for things. And when they search for things, they often buy things.
Google knows this, and that’s a big reason why it’s been pushing Google Now, including offering the functionality through an app on the rival iPhone. Google remains highly dependent on search revenue, and with users going mobile, Google Now provides a high-tech feature that ensures questions filter back through its search engine.
With Alexa, Amazon’s Ultimate Goal Is to Sell Stuff
If the Alexa-powered cooking app calls for a food processor, you can bet that if you ask it to recommend a good model it will be more than happy to facilitate ordering one from Amazon. An Alexa-powered Bluetooth speaker will answer your question about who is singing the song currently streaming on Internet radio, and make it easy for you to buy the album from Amazon. If a module in your Alexa-powered home security system has a low battery, you’ll get a verbal warning of the situation and the option to order a replacement.
Even if it’s not selling you something, Amazon benefits when Alexa is there.
The machine intelligence that powers Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Alexa gets better with use. By providing the opportunity to include Alexa in products like a garage door opener that would seem to have little possibility of generating a sale through amazon.com, AMZN’s intelligent personal assistant still gets smarter.
Bottom Line on Alexa
If Alexa gets to the point where it’s consistently viewed as the superior intelligent personal assistant to Siri, Google Now and Cortana, more developers are going to use Alexa in their apps and more manufacturers will incorporate it in their electronics.
In other words, if all goes according to plan, Alexa becomes virtually ubiquitous — found in the home, on PCs, smartphones and tablets — and it never stops driving sales through Amazon, even when people aren’t setting out to go online shopping. Of course, Alexa has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near that point, but offering free use, free developer tools and cash to support third-party Alexa integration is a smart way to begin ramping it up.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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