If you’ve followed my work over the past few years, you know that I’ve been consistently bullish on Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). Honestly, how could you not be?
Rarely have we seen companies so dominant, yet maintain the same hunger as if they’ve just entered the game, looking to make a name for themselves. And with their smart-speaker artificial intelligence platform Alexa, Amazon again changed the calculus.
It’s hard to believe that the company started life as an online book retailer. Back then, their biggest concern was to provide the means to access information. Actually obtaining the actual information (i.e., reading) was left up to the customer.
With Alexa, which is featured in the Amazon Echo series of digital personal assistants, AMZN provides the information: live, on-demand, and about anything, so long as what’s asked falls under Alexa’s parameters.
Hence, I believe Amazon bringing Alexa to France is a game changer. On Tuesday, French customers can preorder the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Spot. The first two models will start shipping the week beginning June 10. The Echo Spot, which prominently features a digital screen interface, has a ship-out date sometime in July.
With a population of 65.2 million, France is big — for a European country. On paper, it doesn’t appear that this Alexa preorder event is particularly newsworthy, or even interesting. After all, France merely joins a growing list of countries which Alexa has integrated, including the U.K., Australia, India, New Zealand, Germany, Japan and Ireland.
More to the point, AI rival Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) has already penetrated the French market last year. If anything, Amazon is technically late to the game integrating Alexa. Plus, you’ll soon have Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) barreling in.
That, however, suits AMZN’s management just fine.
What’s So Special About Alexa Taking Over France?
I’ve visited France a few times, and I have a nuanced perspective on the people and culture. Stereotypically, Americans view the French as snobby and arrogant, and perhaps that’s somewhat true. But we also have to be fair: many American tourists act in such a way to deserve that response.
What’s my point? French customers aren’t going to accept a dumbed-down version of Alexa. They want a platform that not only speaks the language in a technically grammatical sense, but also colloquially.
Admittedly, that attitude isn’t different from other nations’ customers. However, as The Guardian notes, the French are exceptionally proud of their language as it’s rooted in national identity.
And why not? As my friend and former InvestorPlace colleague Kyle Woodley might say, it’s the most beautiful language in the world.
That Amazon believes so much in its Alexa platform to decisively take over the French market speaks volumes. Even being one year late compared to Alphabet doesn’t bother it much. In the fourth quarter of last year, Amazon’s smart speakers held almost 52% of global market share. Alphabet is still considerably behind at nearly 36%.
More importantly, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined his administration’s AI initiative earlier this year. His goal is to have his nation become a leading AI hub. TechCrunch.com further notes:
“Some of the best mathematics and engineering schools are in France, and some of the best data scientists and AI researchers come from France. Many of them now work in California or London for Facebook, Deepmind, etc. And the French government wants to capitalize on that soft power to make an AI push.”
It’s only natural that AMZN wants a piece of the French pie. And you know what? It’ll get it.
Amazon Bamboozles the Competition
Here’s the perplexing thing for Amazon haters, if such people exist. Major tech companies throughout the world are eyeing opening offices in France.
We’re talking IBM (NYSE:IBM), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) and Fujitsu Ltd (ADR) (OTCMKTS:FJTSY). Facebook and Google are already there. Yet it’s an online bookstore that’s beating them all to the punch.
It’s not just about who has the best AI technology. If that was the sole criteria, I’d rather go with IBM. All it does is technology. In contrast, Amazon has to sell books, groceries and anything else that this planet wants.
But Amazon understands the difference between AI for technology’s sake, and AI that serves practical needs. In this regard, AMZN stands alone. Moreover, Alexa has a logical path to monetize their platform. For example, if an Alexa user is looking to purchase something, of course it will direct that person to Amazon.com.
All this to say that Amazon is taking their time to get things right from the first try. Books were invented long before the e-commerce giant arrived. So too were groceries. That didn’t stop Amazon from radically transforming them. Why wouldn’t we expect them to do the same for AI?
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.