It used to be that the interactive virtual Girl Friday, Siri, had the answers to everything.
But there’s a new girl in town. Her name’s Alexa, and she seems to understand more, and be able to do more.
She’s the personal assistant of Amazon Echo, the hands-free smart speaker developed by Amazon, designed not just to do everything, but everything more.
From ordering an Uber, making phone and video calls, to changing TV channels, ordering a pizza, reading audio books, controlling your lights, controlling your home heating, giving GPS directions, to even playing an audio Batman game, it’s no wonder that Business Insider touts it as the “one of the best tech purchases”.
The top product sold on the recent Amazon Prime Day (July 11) was its Echo Dot, selling seven times as many as the year prior.
So, what is Amazon’s “secret sauce”? Disrupting, for Amazon, comes down to this: Do things different, and better.
Amazon, launched in 1994, went toe to toe with eBay’s launch a year later, and since that time has maintained its strong competitive edge despite the proliferation of online retail sites. Amazon touted themselves offering anything, at any rate, any time – a one stop shop.
With Prime Video, Amazon entered an already saturated market of original online entertainment, up against the likes of Hulu, Crackle, YouTube, Netflix, and others. Still, it held its own, because of its unique offerings.
Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services pummels the cloud market with a forty per cent share, more than Google, Microsoft and IBM combined. (It has ten times the computing capacity, competitive pricing, and tight security.)
So when Amazon soft launched Echo in 2014, against existing wearables, smartphones and the like, it had to be more resourceful, and affordable.
It also helps that the Echo is open to work with third-party hardware and software makers, and that has led to today’s third party “skills” numbering at over 15,000.
It is much of the reason why customers swapped their old mobile phones for smartphones, to avail themselves of the countless, growing number of apps.
The problem for Echo’s closest competitors, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana, however, is that they do not have interfaces with other devices in the market. As developers see Echo as the future of programming, there’ll be more Echo compliant devices, ergo, more customer demand.
Furthermore, to Google’s disadvantage, Amazon already enjoys the retail reach of hundreds of millions of people, for instant market proliferation.
And with news that Microsoft no longer supports any version of Windows Phone OS version 8.1 or older (four fifths of the Windows phone market), it means no device platform for Microsoft’s Cortana, their version of the voice assistant.