Amazon Echo Has a Head Start on Siri and Google Now

Amazon Echo

MG Siedler, a former tech blogger who is now a General Partner at Google Ventures, writes about Amazon Echo and Alexa:

In fact, I think Echo makes it very clear that Apple (and to a lesser extent, Google) dropped a ball here. This is exactly how Siri should exist in your home. And this is what that orb thing Google made a few years back should have been.

Yes, Siri exists in the home now via Apple TV. Sort of. Because of the still-limited functionality of that device, she actually resides much more comfortably in your home via any number of other iOS devices — iPhones, iPads, etc. The key to the Echo, in my mind, is two-fold:

It’s always on, always in the same place, always listening.
It’s a dedicated device for this functionality.

​You can use “Hey Siri” to trigger the iOS speech interface with the iPhone 6s line (older devices have to be plugged in for this). And you can use Siri with Apple TV. But as Siegler wrote, Amazon is the only company right now with a dedidacted device for voice. Surprising, given the fact that Echo launched in November 2014.

It is interesting that as far behind as Amazon were with smartphones they are as far ahead with voice now.

This is why it feels like Echo, even though it came after Siri/Cortana/Google Now, is the first true “vocal computing” device. And why it will move the genre forward.

The first dozen times you say “Alexa” it feels a little silly. The next dozen times, it feels not only natural, but obvious.

​Amazon first build a compelling stand-alone device and then (constantly, over the last year) expanded the platform behind it.

Dan Frommer at Quartz reporting on what Echo users have to say about the device:

Amazon lists more than 31,500 reviews for Echo, with two-thirds rating it five stars (of five possible stars), and just 6% rating it one or two stars. People generally seem to either love it or be frustrated by its limitations. One lengthy review, “The Echo has become the most used appliance in our home,” has been upvoted more than 10,000 times and has 285 comments. Its top complaint is that the Echo isn’t portable; Amazon is reportedly introducing a smaller, battery-powered version soon, although it won’t always be listening for ambient voice commands, which sounds like a significant drawback.

Amazon does not own any smartphone platform. But at this point it is pretty clear that Amazon will own a major voice interface platform. The head start Amazon Alexa now has is pretty big.

This is important, because whatever online retail interactions (the obvious case right now is reordering consumables) will emerge for voice, Amazon will be in a very good position to take advantage of owning this platform. Just like with the Kindle e-reader there is a lot to gain from being vertically integrated. (At the least, Amazon can not be shut out and do whatever is in the companies best interest with voice.)

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4 comments

  1. […] is in a very comfortable position […]

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  2. […] (or companies) may as well turn out to be another major player in the voice interface segment, Echo’s head start is now large enough that Amazon’s voice platform is going to stay important for the […]

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