Every major tech company is vying for space in our homes. Apple has managed to stay in the palm of our hands through its iDevices; Google has become the gatekeeper when we get on the internet and start searching for things; Microsoft jumps in whenever we boot our desktops; and Amazon is making sure that we get what we want at our doorstep. Each of them has their own way to get closer to us. And at the end of the day they just want us to spend more and more time using their products.
That’s not a new concept in itself; it’s called loyalty. But the race to gain loyalty is now becoming a race to create dependence on their product/service ecosystems.
That race is now taking the shape of artificial-intelligence-based-voice-interactive companions that metaphorically follow us around our homes listening to everything we say in the hope that we’ll have a job for them to do. That’s far, far beyond loyalty.
Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Google has Google Assistant and Amazon has its very own Alexa on the Echo smart home speakers. On the surface, these AI bots are merely applications installed into internet-connected devices, nothing more. But what they represent is a tremendous shift in the way we live our lives by becoming more than just what they appear to be. In fact, they’re slowly becoming members of our family.
But Amazon Echo and Alexa have something that none of the other virtual assistants have – the power of purchase. In a sense, it is an extension of the portal that carries nearly 400 million products and keeps adding half a million products every day to its growing catalog.
Okay, so Google Assistant can possibly piggyback on Google Shopping and accomplish the same goal, but it is the same because Google can’t control many of the aspects of online retail that Amazon can. Eventually, Cortana, Siri and every other voice-based Assistant might be able to order you a pizza or order your basic groceries for you, but you know it’s just not equal to having the entire Amazon catalog sitting in your home literally waiting for your command.
But the real power for Amazon’s Alexa comes from the ability of third-party developers to integrate their own companies’ products with Alexa. Here are just a few of the things that Alexa on Amazon Echo can already do:
- It can act as your very own personal bar-tending assistant, telling you how to accurately mix a mean cocktail
- Keep you up all night with Yo Mama jokes (Yo mama’s so fat she wore a yellow dress and people kept yelling “Taxi”! – Just say “Hey Alexa, start Mom jokes” – that’s the command you have to give, oddly.
- If you have a SmartThings hub, it takes all of 5 minutes to integrate Alexa with every smart device in your home, and start controlling them with voice commands.
- And entire personal cookbook from Campbell’s Kitchen on tap.
- Banking with CapitalOne. Pay bills, check balances and previous transactions, and pretty much do everything you can do online.
That’s just a very small sample of the thousands of things that Alexa can process, and it goes on top of being able to purchase nearly anything from Amazon’s retail portals.
And it is these interactive capabilities that make Amazon stand out from the crowd of devices now coming to the market. Every company wants to be on the Echo with Alexa because they want to be inside your home to serve you at the slightest hint of “Hey Alexa.” And they’re doing it because it brings them customers.
This holiday season we don’t yet know how many orders were actually processed through Alexa, but we do know that Amazon walked away with nearly 37% of all online orders starting well before Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The second best had to make do with less than 5% of the total online volume.
That’s how far Amazon has gotten, and Alexa is going to take it to the next level this year.
Amazon can easily match the technological skills brought to the table by big companies like Google and Microsoft, but Google and Microsoft will find that it is impossible to build up a retail portfolio such as what Amazon currently has.
And that’s what makes the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo the best possible home companion. There have been several reviews saying Google Home is much better or Microsoft’s Cortana-capable smart speakers with Harman/Kardon audio will wipe the floor with everyone else when it comes out next year, but that’s not about to happen as long as Amazon controls our basic needs as consumers.
They could have better music, have access to all the world’s information and even look better than the Echo, but when it comes to a utilitarian viewpoint, Alexa on Amazon Echo – or what it represents – is what the future is all about.
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