Amazon has announced that it wants the Echo to become a software and hardware platform, in a bid to capitalize on Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based virtual assistant. For the uninitiated, the Echo is a wireless device that runs Alexa and comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi support and internal speakers. The Echo can be used to issue commands and request information using voice, similar to assistants like Google’s Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. On the software side, Amazon is releasing an SDK for developers to integrate Alexa into their applications, and perhaps even build on Alexa to add new commands and new features.
This means that developers now can integrate voice recognition into their apps without starting from scratch, and we may see more such apps appearing soon. Those interested can check out the developer preview.
Coming to the hardware, Amazon is giving away the software platform making up the Echo to any interested hardware partner for free. This means that the Echo is just the beginning, and is a sort of proof of concept, and more devices embracing Amazon’s software platform may come soon. Think of Amazon’s efforts as akin to Android. Google gives Android away to hardware partners, and similarly Amazon too will give away the platform for free to partners.
Another significant announcement is that of the Alexa Fund, which has a total of $100mn in place to fund developers and hardware partners to work on integrating Alexa into their apps and products.
Ultimately, Amazon wants Alexa to be everywhere, and that’s unprecedented. The major voice assistants (Siri, Now and Cortana) are behind walls and it is currently not possible for developers to integrate them into their apps, or for hardware partners to build them into their products. Siri, Now and Cortana are just voice assistants. Amazon wants to make Alexa into a voice recognition platform.