More than 100 million units with Alexa on board have been sold. It's too rare the actual number that Amazon's SVP of devices and services, Dave Limp, revealed to me earlier this week. That's not to say that Amazon has finally decided to be completely transparent about the sale of devices. While the company claims it exceeded its most optimistic expectations of the echo point of the holiday, Limp would not give a number to it. Instead, Limp says Amazon has been sold out of dots throughout January, despite "palletizing Echo Dots at 747s and getting them from Hong Kong to here as soon as we possibly could."
But back to the 1
It's been a while since we've had a good old-fashioned, down, out, winning-take-all platform war . But one can be brewing right now in the world of intelligent assistants. As in any platform war, the numbers come out in front and in the middle, and Amazon has the lead on many of these numbers: more than 150 products with Alexa built-in, more than 28,000 smart home devices working with Alexa made by more than 4,500 different manufacturers and over 70,000 Alexa Skills Developers. The Google Assistant numbers were lower throughout the forum last time we heard them, but Google is likely to use CES to check in with new ones.
How Amazon got these numbers, is much more interesting than the numbers themselves. Amazon's strategy for Alexa reveals a basic philosophy: speaks and empowers everyone to just send.
Is this really a platform war? Limp, a veteran of Amazon who started building the Kindle, does not seem to think it – or at least he thinks it will play out differently from previous platform wars. "I don't think it falls to a sporting event," says Limp, "where it will be a winner." He adds, "There will be more players in the foreseeable future. I don't think it's just going to be two, either. I think it will be more than that."
It's easy to see the attitude that standard executive demurral. Why start a fight if you don't need it? But having talked to Limp since the early days of ignition, I see it as part of his character. He is a laid-back leader who is remarkably obvious, pragmatic and almost relaxed about problems that other leaders would dance around.
As an example, Limp does not seem worried that third-party Alexa units will damage the Alexa brand. There are more than 150 different products right now with Alexa built in, and over 100 of them are shipped in 2018 and are not made by Amazon at all. Some of them are pretty great – the Sonos Beam soundbar and Bose QC35 II headphones are strong examples – but inevitably, some of them will be pretty cute.
Another thing you can expect in a platform war: walls, exclusivity agreements, and things that don't work together. Limp is not interested in them either. He's all for allowing decision makers to create gadgets that support multiple assistants. Facebook Portal and the partnership with Microsoft to parse Cortana and Alexa as examples
When I ask him if Amazon is doing anything about contracts with companies to limit what they do to other assistants, the question was outside Limps world view, he was surprised "Uh, no," is the simple answer. Limp is also open to working with competitors to get different assistants to work better together – for example, by letting them all use the same standard to identify rooms, so You don't have to put everything up again and again.
"We are still a great believer in several assistants," Limps says. "We think they will interact in many different ways." So you wonder what keeps Sonos from sending Google Assistant on their devices, don't blame Amazon. Of course, it's easy for Limp to be all kumbaya about competition when Alexa is in pole position and also when other departments of Amazon play hardball with competitors like Google and Apple.
Nevertheless, it is difficult not to see Alexa, Google, Apple, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft fights for dominance. And CES is the perfect place to watch the fight fight out. It may not be the place where The Next Big Thing is revealed, but CES is the place to see where the trends are heading.
This year at CES you can expect Google to reproduce its shock-and-reverence strategy for literally coloring Las Vegas with "Hello Google" ads as it creates a massive booth in the parking lot outside the convention center. Google started a bit behind Alexa when it launched its Home products, and it is well behind Alexa for third-party support, so go all-in to the event where all the third parties party, making perfect sense to Google. 19659017] "Customers don't care about an ad campaign on the Las Vegas Strip. They just don't."
But not so much for Amazon. "Customers don't care about an ad campaign on the Las Vegas Strip," Limp says. "They don't. It plays to the industry. It doesn't matter who really matters. Do we want a slide with a diving card and a pool? No, it's not the plan. But I think we'll have many partners with a lot of good products that I am excited about. "
Amazon will not have a gigantic booth, nor will it be an over-the-keynote, but it will be present. This presence will be the ubiquity of "Works with Alexa" labels on gadgets throughout the show floor along with new devices that have Alexa in them. "CES is about ensuring that the partners we have [are supported]," Limp says. "It's less about Amazon itself."
When it comes to Alexa products, it's just how Amazon rolls. There is no clearer example of how Amazon does things than how it announced the latest wave of Echo devices. In September, Amazon held an event in Seattle where it literally announced dozens of Echo and Alexa products. It showed new echoes and wall clocks, new screens and wall connectors, and even a microwave.
There was no preamble, no splashy magazine feature, just Amazon say something like, "Here's all we let out. Here's what they do. Have it." This strategy can come back. It certainly does not build the hype and it makes it all too easy that the products get lost in shuffle. "What we want to do is not talk through an ad campaign or keyword," Limp says, "but instead speak through the results. "
The result for Amazon is a great leadership in the rapid number of devices that either support Alexa directly or can be controlled by Alexa through skills. It also has a leading role in the home. Limp says, "At least when it comes to home assistants – we can probably talk about mobile assistants, [too] – I think we are far in the lead. Our data will indicate that we are on the move. "
But let's talk about mobile assistants. Google and Apple can include their own assistants on board as standard on their phones, leading to the installation of bases that can number in billions instead of the 100 million Alexa devices Amazon has. can really be a serious problem for Amazon: if it turns out that consumers prefer to only use a long-term assistant, like the edge Alexa out of people's lives.
These tools include things like the Alexa Connect Kit, a hardware module that can make Alexa a gadget almost plug-and-play. They include APIs and SDKs that make it easy to integrate software products into Alexa, leading to the surprise support for Apple Music on Echo.
"You might end up with something like AWS," Limp says. "You didn't have to call anyone to build a S3 storage system. You just put in your credit card, sign up for an account, and the next thing you knew, you can put and stay. … You should be able to get to our website , sign up for an account and get the breadth of all the things happening. "
Building that foundation also means moving beyond the basics of keywords and skills. "We started with an app store-like metaphor for skills, not because we think it was right, but because that's what we can do quickly, Limp says. Alexa needs to become more conversational, make skills more discoverable, and generally just get less difficult use. It won't happen quickly (and Google has some benefits there), but there's going to be a lot of focus going forward.
Amazon intends to focus heavily on these partners can only do more Alexa stuff in 2019, and also pushing hard for international expansion to drive these adoption numbers even higher.
Whether this is a platform war or not, there is one thing clear: bigger numbers are better.