In 2016 the battle for mobile phone payment was between Google Pay and Apple Pay, with one pulling ahead of the other depending on what partners they were able to announce. At CES 2017 Amazon made it clear that they are present and ready to take over. Mobile phone manufacturers like Huawei showed cased Alexa instead of Google’s assistant, with Alexa appearing in cars, fridges and countless home robots.
Amazon moved very early to make sure Alexa was open and available to all hardware and software makers. Its basic feature set and Echo hardware endeared the assistant to users right from the start, and helped make its wide availability an appealing proposition. CES showed the beginning of the maturation of those efforts, and 2017 will likely see a lot more progress in that regard.
By contrast, Amazon is willing to work with partners that, for example, Apple wouldn’t, or had prioritized so lowly that a timely inclusion wouldn’t be and we’re seeing an acceptance of this purchasing AI roll out all over the world. In France, the rail is launching Alexa to buy tickets, enabling passengers to ask when the cheapest and best days to travel on would be. Offering personalized information like reminding a passenger they’ll need an umbrella when traveling is a decent perk for using the service. Even if they could have gotten Apple Pay it wouldn’t have come with Siri.
On the strategy front, Amazon’s strategy with Alexa rhymes with what we’ve seen from Netflix and Microsoft in the past. Netflix dropped allegiance to hardware and partnered with multiple vendors to distribute its service. Microsoft’s Windows operating system wasn’t the best game in town in the early days of the PC market, but gained distribution to become a standard.
What made the presence of Amazon even more felt was the complete absence of Apple and Microsoft at CES. We did see a fridge or two with Windows and of course many new notebooks, but nothing in terms of broadening the use of their voice-based virtual assistants. Not a single Siri vase to be found. At least Amazon, Google, and Microsoft had some level of official participation in CES. Apple was a complete no-show, as usual. It didn’t exhibit, have a private meeting room or participate in panel discussions.
Apple’s home kit seems to be failing epically and with the home being the next frontier it seems that Amazon’s openness to partnerships makes them the one to watch.
If you’re looking for a few examples of Alexa based products at CES, here are a few of our favorites
- DISH will enable Amazon Alexa voice control on its Hopper DVR. According to a statement, DISH is the first TV provider to offer direct compatibility with Alexa.
- Whirlpool connecting Alexa to its smart appliances as a skill on Echo and Echo Dot. Given Alexa’s integration with other smart home providers, Amazon is becoming intertwined with in-home connectivity.
- Lenovo is also integrating Amazon’s Alexa in a series of smart devices. What’s interesting here is that Lenovo sees Amazon as more of a partner than competitor, even as it preps its own artificial intelligence technology.
- Amazon is ensuring Alexa will have the developer community behind it via integration with Amazon Web Services.
- Huawei Mate 9 with Alexa