Alexa, the Polyglot

Amazon’s Voice Service Starts a Global Ascent

Yesterday Amazon announced that its Alexa Voice Service will be available for developers building voice-controlled products for the German and UK markets. The move will allow third-party devices with Alexa integration to receive commands and responses in British English and German, expanding the opportunity for hardware sales.

In 2016, Amazon began sales of its Echo line of smart speakers in Germany and the UK. By expanding its development tools to be compatible with a much wider audience, Amazon is, unsurprisingly, confirming its efforts to establish its smart platform as a global de facto standard.

At CES 2017, it became evident that both large and small hardware makers were adopting Alexa. Amazon was early in opening its voice assistant to third parties making the service, in essence, the leading contender. Google and Microsoft have recently begun offering their digital assistants for integration into other products, but being first has given Amazon an advantage. CCS Insight sees these developments as the beginning of a competition to control a new form of computing platform (see Loud and Clear: Voice Interfaces Form New Battleground).

As the accuracy of voice input and the quality of responses improve, people are increasingly open to talking to software. We’re not only past the post-PC era, but also approaching a new age in which the smartphone becomes just one of the devices people use, rather than the remote control for their lives. Users are becoming more familiar with voice as a main form of interaction as a rising number of devices listen, learn, react, assist and predict.

For Amazon, the Alexa Voice Service has become a project of velocity. The company is aware that there’s no comfort as a front runner. This is the beginning of this shift and rival intelligent platforms aren’t far behind. But Amazon has the advantage of a growing number of users and hardware makers eager to be ahead of the curve. Once-mundane devices are getting connected and getting smart. Voice isn’t just a new type of user interface, but also the buttons and knobs of a coming generation of products.

Amazon’s two-country expansion of the Alexa Voice Service is certainly only the beginning: the company is advancing Alexa’s language skills. Although artificial intelligence engines are getting better, developer momentum is Alexa’s biggest advantage.