Fortune reported in May that the Amazon Echo is dominating the voice-assisted speaker market. And this has made Amazon Alexa the most popular virtual assistant. The e-commerce giant’s lead is growing even bigger, with Alexa now having more than 15,000 “skills” (Amazon’s word for integrations).
An article on Voicebot reported that skill counts for Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant closed at 15,069 in June. In January 2017, the number was still at 7,000. This means that it has more than doubled in the past six months.
It has to be noted that Voicebot only analyzed data from the United States via third-party analysis. It was mentioned that there are thousands more skills in Germany and the United Kingdom. This includes those which are unique to these countries and those which are duplicates of Alexa skills found in the U.S. store. Thus, analysts find it more challenging to get an exact count of unique skills across the globe for the Amazon virtual assistant. But a safe estimate is almost 20,000 or more.
Amazon Alexa Beats Google Assistant Again
Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant introduced 2,776 new skills in June. Google Assistant added only 74. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana got only 7 new skills. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Alexa showed up everywhere. The AI was in new smartphones, lamps, washing machines, and even robots. Several auto manufacturers also introduced cars that are connected to the most popular VA.
Popular Amazon Alexa Skills
Analysis of research data shows that Flash Briefings make up around 20 percent of the total available skills in the store. These integrations are some of the easiest to develop, and this could be why there are so many of them. People, BBC, Washington Post, and the Wall St. Journal are some of the major media publications that have news and information voice apps for Alexa.
As for the most used Amazon Alexa skills, information taken from Echo owners in 2016 show that setting a timer is the most popular one. Playing a song and reading the news come in second and third respectively. Rounding up the top ten skills are (in order):
- setting an alarm
- checking the time
- controlling smart lights
- adding items to a shopping list
- connecting to a paid music service
- buying products on Amazon Prime
- controlling a smart thermostat.
Based on Amazon customer picks in 2016, some of the most favorite Alexa enabled skills are “J6” (answering trivia questions in Jeopardy! Style) and playing music. The latter includes making basic sounds (ocean waves, rain, thunderstorms, and so on). Another popular skill is “Short Bedtime Story” (30-second stories personalized to your child’s name). Skills for Fitbit and Inspire Me (an audio clip with inspiring music to motivate you every day) are also often used.
Can Alexa Maintain Its Lead in the Market?
Even if Amazon Alexa is contending with some of the biggest and best gadget and software makers in the world (Google, Apple, Microsoft), it has successfully captured a market that is growing each year. In fact, it is expected to control 70% of the market this year.
Because Amazon was able to launch their smart speakers ahead of other tech giants, they have had an edge in the competition. The company has successfully sold more than 5 million Echo speakers since it first launched in 2014 (these numbers were from collated data at the start of 2017). Another reason why their virtual assistant is more popular is it isn’t partial to any particular type of platform (like Apple and iOS, Google and Android). This means it provides the same, uninfluenced experience on various devices that a user may own.
Due to its success, other tech giants have tried to have a bite of the pie by creating their own voice-controlled smart speakers. The more well-known ones are Google Home, Microsoft Cortana Speakers, and the most recently launched Apple Homepod. But the closest contender is Google’s smart virtual assistant.
Is Google Assistant better than Amazon’s Alexa? This question is still a popular topic for debate among tech experts and enthusiasts. Some argue that Google is far superior in information search. However, it is far behind when it comes to the tasks and skills that Alexa is capable of.
Concerns and Issues
One concern about Alexa is how fast the Amazon skill store for its VA has grown. The company may have built an impressively large selection of integrations so quickly, but it has also failed to implement safeguards to ensure apps are up to standards. Aside from that, there have been issues about the absence of any tools for developers to earn from their apps. Some fear that by giving more importance to quantity, it could end up with a weak and faulty infrastructure for its voice apps.
On the other hand, by having 15,000 choices, Amazon Alexa users have more variety and opportunity to find a product that suits their need. Sure, many of the options are of low quality, but consumers have thousands more to choose from. Besides, if you know how to find and use the best Alexa skills, your smart virtual assistant can become even smarter. These 15,000 plus skills are another, if not the major reason why Amazon is winning the smart speaker competition at the moment.