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article imageAmazon to 'double down' on Alexa 'positive surprise'

By James Walker     Feb 2, 2018 in Technology
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the company will "double down" on Alexa in 2018 after it exceeded internal expectations last year. The company said Alexa has delivered "positive surprises." It is now committed to extending its market lead.
Doubling down
Alexa's widely seen to be the preeminent digital assistant in the current ecosystem of consumer-oriented AI. Amazon has succeeded in turning Alexa into a developer-friendly platform that also appeals to consumers. The company's not sitting still though, as rivals from Google, Microsoft and Apple are beginning to make up for their lost time.
During the company's earnings call yesterday, Bezos singled out Alexa as one of the company's biggest successes in 2017. As reported by Business Insider, he claimed Amazon had "very optimistic" internal projections of the assistant's growth. As it turned out, Alexa managed to "far exceed" them though, gaining market share at a rate not even the company's execs had considered feasible.
With Alexa now attaining considerable traction, Amazon's challenge is to continue encouraging adoption while fending off Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana. Bezos didn't provide clear details of Amazon's Alexa strategy for the coming year. However, there are already plenty of indicators that suggest the most probable route for the company to take.
Developers and incentives
Retaining the current developer interest in Alexa will be key to the assistant's long-term success. The assistant already has 30,000 third-party skills, the highest number of integrations of any current AI. The company's now understood to be pursuing efforts designed to convince developers to build more voice-based apps.
Representatives told Business Insider that developers could be offered more options to charge for their skills, making it more likely they'll release new products as Alexa-exclusives. Incentivising developers could result in higher sales of Alexa-equipped consumer hardware. If major apps begin partnering with Alexa before its rivals, users will be naturally inclined to pick an Amazon product over a competitor's device.
ASUS laptop with Alexa assistant
ASUS laptop with Alexa assistant
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Amazon's also addressing broader problems common to all current digital assistants. This week, the company invested in a start-up that's trying to pinpoint problems that cause consumers to abandon voice-controlled apps. If Alexa is to succeed in the long-term, Amazon needs to keep the assistant's users engaged. This could be achieved by developing unique new functionality that's genuinely quicker or easier to use than a touchscreen smartphone app.
Overall, Amazon's fourth-quarter earnings call exceeded analyst predictions. The company reported $60.5 billion in revenue, headlined by retail sales, Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure and entertainment services. Although income from Alexa is still tiny compared with Amazon's other services, the company's laying the groundwork for a future it expects to be dominated by AI and assistance.
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