The Alexa Opportunity

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:

Amazon’s Echo speaker, and its descendents, Dot and Tap, are growing in popularity as consumers’ preferred “smart” speakers and the voice computing platform for the home. But they’re also encouraging a wave of developer interest, in the form of add-ons dubbed “skills” which allow you to teach Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa new tricks, like calling you an Uber… or ordering you a pizza. Today, Amazon announced that its Alexa app store, so to speak – the “skills” section – has grown to over 1,000 skills. That’s a notable milestone, given that ordering the Echo was only available by invite up until last June.

The company has also brought Alexa’s power to other connected devices, including Fire TV and even those made by third-party hardware makers, thanks to its open platform.

To give you an idea of how quickly this third-party “app” ecosystem has grown, in January of this year, Alexa’s skills section had reached over 130 apps.

That’s a fast-growing device ecosystem, and it demonstrates the potential for how far Siri could be extended if developers were able.

Mind you, Apple could also add capabilities like these on a regular basis if Siri was not tied to a monolithic release cycle. And, occasionally, they do add capabilities and features on the fly — that’s how they announced WWDC this year. I wonder how much is possible without requiring a new version of iOS to be released. The lack of rich graphics in Siri, like those in iOS 6, almost certainly makes the release process more flexible as they don’t need to be loaded onto each device.