As more and more companies get into the smart speaker game, a new report shows just how much ground they have to make up to catch Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa.
In contrast to Alexa’s armada of apps, the Google Home smart speaker has only 378 voice apps, while Microsoft Cortana has 65.
Alexa’s skills have now more than doubled since the beginning of the year, when she only knew how to do a paltry 7,000 things. Last June, Amazon hit 1,000 skills for its digital brain, and the growth has been exponential since.
Some Alexa skills are more valuable than others, but having a huge variety of apps is a boon for Amazon as it faces challenges from all comers. Google’s competition from the Google Home is well-documented and comes with the backing of Google’s powerful search engine. The Apple HomePod is aimed at people who care more about the quality of speaker than the voice-activated apps. And just the week reports surfaced that tech giants Alibaba and Samsung are working on smart speakers of their own.
While competitors are working on their first smart speakers, Amazon is building out a catalog of Alexa-powered devices. There are the speakers — Echo, Echo Dot and Tap — and then there are new devices meant to serve different purposes. The brand new Echo Show has a screen for voice-activated video calling, the Echo Look gives fashion tips, and the Amazon Dash Wand with Alexa is an inexpensive kitchen assistant.
Alexa’s proliferation can be partially attributed to Amazon’s decision to open the digital brain up to developers and device manufacturers in 2015. Alexa Voice Service lets manufacturers integrate Alexa into their products. The Alexa Skills Kit encourages third-party developers to build skills for Alexa. Developers who want to add to Alexa’s abilities can write code that works with Alexa in the cloud, letting the smart assistant do the heavy lifting of understanding and deciphering spoken commands.
Amazon also opened up what amounts to Alexa’s ears, her 7-Mic Voice Processing Technology, to third party hardware makers who want to build the digital brain into their devices. Amazon opened up Amazon Lex, the artificial intelligence technology that powers Alexa to developers.