Amazon’s Alexa Needs To Grow Up Quick

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Amazon has a breakout hit on its hands with the Echo, the smart speaker that no one really saw coming. It had the built in power of ‘Alexa’, Amazon’s AI program that helped make things life easier for everyone who bought the Echo.

The real reason behind the success of ALexa though was the fact that Amazon allowed it to work with third party applications. Users can now ask Alexa to book them an Uber, play music from Spotify or even adjust the temperature on their thermostat. Many of these applications were not in place when the Echo first came out and so the device actually got more capable as time progressed.

It has now reached a point where Amazon is seriously looking at building Alexa as a business. Jeff Bezos, at the recent Code conference, said that he can foresee Alexa as one of the major pillars on which Amazon’s success rests.

It is not going to be easy of course since other major players like Google and Apple have only just begun entering this market. The IoT is growing at a breakneck speed and all major tech companies will be looking to grab the position of the smart home hub. Google announced the Google Home recently which is a wireless speaker powered by Google’s AI, offering much if not exactly the same what the Echo is offering right now.

With increasing pressure and competitors moving in, is the Echo good enough to withstand the challenge?

Not as it exists now. Alexa has the advantage of being tied in to one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world. It can help you order and buy whatever you need. That is one part of the puzzle. The other part of being the smart home hub involves being smart enough to answer questions.

Currently, Alexa can only answer a very limited number of questions and redirects you to bing for everything else. Google, which already has a lot of user data and knows a lot more about their lives will be able to offer contextual answers , reminders and personalized search results that Amazon can just not compete with.  Even basic things like getting directions are also only possible if you start from home or one other pre-saved loction.

Amazon has a nice headstart and has been more proactive about opening up to third party developers than any other company in this space. This is something it needs to continue doing and try and make Alexa even more indispensible to people’s lives.

Bezos announced that his company has over a 100 engineers working on improving AI, a commendable number but we would really be interested in knowing how many people does he have working on improving search.

Amazon would not want to get into search seeing as it is almost impossible to compete with a behemoth like Google. Look at Microsoft and Bing and how little they have achieved even after so many years.

What Amazon does need to do is to find a way of making Alexa more useful working with the information it has access to. If it does not, then it is only a matter of time before Google and its vast reach thanks to Android end up pushing Amazon out of the market.

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