It has really been a long time since we saw or heard about a good, old-fashioned, winner takes it all platform war, but we might be in for a spectacle right now in the world of Intelligent Assistants. And it boils down to Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft to fight for dominance in the market of CES.
Dave Limp, Amazon’s SVP of Devices & Services made a very amusing statement where he revealed earlier this week that more than a 100 million Alexas have been sold. Limp wouldn’t reveal the absolute numbers but instead said, “ We are sold out through January 2019 even after pushing pallets of Echo Dots onto 747s & getting them here from Hong Kong as early as possible”, thus, establishing having outstripped their highest expectations for Echo Dot.
Back to the story of a 100 million Alexas having been sold, the number could be either, seriously impressive as well as a major problem for Amazon. In any platform war, numbers talk. Good for Amazon, they have been leading in most of the fields in this scenario. Having more than 150 products with built-in Alexa, 28 thousand + smart home devices that are Alexa supported and are made by more than 4500 manufacturers & more than 70 thousand Alexa skills, puts Amazon in the top spot of this platform war as of now.
Another thing that is very much expected during such platform wars is exclusivity contracts and agreements. However, Amazon is not interested in that. In fact, Limp’s reaction to it was of surprise, as though he’d never even think of such an exclusive agreement. “We’re all for products supporting multiple assistants. We think they will interact in a lot of ways”, says Limp, showing his firm belief in multiple assistants. “CES is about making sure that our partners are well supported. It is less about Amazon itself”, added Limp.
However, while touching on to the topic of Mobile Assistants and with Google and Apple leading in their own fields with Google Assistant and Siri, respectively, Limp said that they are not really interested in competing directly with “Assistants”. The platform war is not for voice interface that set your alarm and turns your lights on. It is for “Ambient Computing”, as Walt Mossberg had said.
Amazon is focusing on the places where it would make sense to speak out loud, your room, car & eventually, your workplace. However, building up that foundation means moving beyond the basics of keywords & skills. “We started with an App Store-like metaphor for skills, not because it was right, but because that’s what we could do quickly”, said Limp.
However, Alexa needs to become more conversational, discover more skills and, all in all, become more ‘human’ to interact with. All of this won’t happen as quickly as we’d want, but, it will be a big focus in the future.