Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System

Ben Thompson on how Amazon is building an operating system for the home with Alexa:

Amazon seized the opportunity: first, Alexa was remarkably proficient from day one, particularly in terms of speed and accuracy (two factors that are far more important in encouraging regular use than the ability to answer trivia questions). Then, the company moved quickly to build out its ecosystem in two directions:

  • First, the company created a simple “Skills” framework that allowed smart devices to connect to Alexa and be controlled through a relatively strict verbal framework; in a vacuum it was less elegant than, say, Siri’s attempt to interpret natural language, but it was far simpler to implement. The payoff was already obvious at last year’s CES: Alexa support was everywhere.

  • Secondly, “Alexa” and “Echo” are different names because they are different products: Alexa is the voice assistant, and much like AWS and, Echo is Alexa’s first customer, but hardly its only one. This year CES announcements are dominated by products that run Alexa, including direct Echo competitors, lamps, set-top boxes, TVs, and more.

I’ve been using Homekit / Siri myself at home for some tasks as Alexa isn’t widely available here in Canada, but it’s still interesting to see how Alexa is growing as it gets added to more and more systems.