With CES in full swing in Las Vegas, NV, Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant is shining. Alexa debuted in Amazon’s Echo smart speaker in mid 2014, having sold some 5+ million devices. Further, awareness of the Echo among consumers is increasing rapidly, and users are finding multiple applications: more than half of Echo owners use it to get information, to perform tasks, and other functions. Alexa has been sprung from the Echo, being deployed to related Tap and Dot devices and more recently expanded to Amazon tablets. CES attendees are showcasing products that make use of Alexa: cars, phones, robotic applications, and appliances.
My recent article on a virtual assistant arms race is playing out in front of us. The winner of the race, between Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana is a matter of perspective. System market share, user preference, and capability are viable ways to assess success. Siri (in iPhones) and Cortana (in Windows products) very well may have the advantage in market share, but we cannot know for sure as market share estimates are closely guarded company secrets. User preference is also a sticky wicket for market share reasons, but Windows and Amazon Fire phones were widely successful, and Alexa and Assistant may be very popular but have limited reach due to their implementation on select devices. System capability is perhaps the best way to define success, and several sources like Google Assistant best.
Amazon’s Alexa’s first mover advantage will prove a formidable obstacle to Google’s Assistant spread, especially to other, non-phone devices. All is not lost. With Amazon doing the hard work of boosting consumer awareness and acceptance of AI based assistants, and Android phone popularity, Google’s Assistant may be poised to ride a wave into homes, phones, cars, and more. We will, without doubt see the AI assistant arms race escalate, with more innovative capabilities coming to more devices, with benefits to consumers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I own Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa devices.
© Peter Roehrich, 2017