3 Million Echoes: Why Amazon’s Alexa Voice Platform Is Here To Stay

Amazon Echo

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimates that three million units of Echo have been sold to date.

PDF of the press release (via):

“Echo sold steadily throughout 2015, and as Amazon ramped up promotion, it sold even better at Christmas.” Customers use Amazon Echo for many purposes, with over one – third using it as an information provider responding to questions and as an audio speaker for listening to streaming music (…)

“Our research shows that more than half of Echo owners use the device as more than a voice – controlled music speaker,” added Lowitz. “Users report asking about weather and news, and controlling other connected devices.” CIRP bases its findings on survey s of 2,000 US subjects who made a purchase at Amazon .com in the period from January – December 2015 .

The latest edition to Echo’s capabilities was the Alexa Skills Kit, an API that makes it easier for manufacturers of “Smart Home” devices to connect to the Alexa voice platform.

We first introduced the Smart Home Skill API as a beta called the Alexa Lighting API in August 2015. As part of the beta program, we worked with companies including Nest, Ecobee, Sensi, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink in order to gather developer feedback, while extending Alexa’s smart home capabilities to work with their devices.

It’s easy and free for developers to use the Smart Home Skill API to connect Alexa to hubs and devices for both public and personal use. (…)

Alexa, powers voice experiences on millions of devices in the home, including Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and Amazon Fire TV devices. Developers have added over 500 skills to Alexa so far. Hardware manufacturers and hackers can also integrate the Alexa Voice Service into their own devices.

Integrations like these and sales numbers like the ones estimated by CIRP mean essentially one thing long term:

No matter which company (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 forseeable future.

Once certain network effects are reached, a platform does not simply go away again rapidly. (And network effects are working here already in favor of Echo/Alexa: Both, integration partners as well as end users, are on board by high enough numbers.)

The strategic importance of this for Amazon can hardly be overstated.

For further context, tech publication The Verge writes in its Amazon Dot review (with the subheadline “This is the future of the smart home interface”):

The Dot is easy to put in every room in your house, giving you voice control access points all over for a relatively low cost. It’s hard to overstate how much of a leap this is for interacting with a smart home — prior to the Dot, setting up a full house with voice control required significant investment and complicated installations. With the Dot, virtually anyone can pretend they are on the bridge of the Enterprise, barking commands at an omnipresent computer in every room of their home. (…)

support page for how to order the Dot notes that the device is in limited quantities and says “when we sell out of Echo Dot devices, they will no longer be available.” Amazon would not elaborate on future plans for the Dot when I asked, but a spokesperson did note that if you order a Dot now, it will arrive some time after August 1st.

Should Amazon continue producing the Dot and open up sales to a wider audience, it’s easy to see that the future of the smart home is inside this little black puck.

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