They say if you love someone, set them free.
And apparently, Amazon really loves Alexa, since yesterday it announced that its voice-powered virtual assistant technology will be unbundled from the Echo. And if this wasn't enough love to shower on the Siri-competitor, Amazon also announced they were sending her off into the world with $100 million dollars of spending money in her pocket.
Both of these are important and interesting, so let's look at each:
Alexa is an interesting technology, combining powerful cloud-powered AI and voice recognition with Amazon powered services like Prime. Yesterday they announced they would separate the technology from Echo and that developers would now be able to write to an Alexa API to create third party services and applications.
The battle for the future of AI has been joined and we can see the early strategies crystalizing. This move shows Amazon has big plans for Alexa, seeing the technology as a direct competitor to Siri, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana voice powered AI/personal assistant technology.
I think Amazon would be a potentially interesting partner for some smart home/IoT companies, offering them an alternative to the OS-aligned hegemony of Apple/iOS, Google/Android, Microsoft/Windows.
The Alexa Fund makes smart business sense for Amazon, which doesn't have the same OS-centric ecosystem of developers to direct startups down the Alexa path as Apple and Google have with HomeKit/Siri orWeave/Now. By offering a significant new development fund, I am sure we will see some startups now be able to afford allocating development resources towards integration with Alexa.
Bottom line, the combination of an unbundled Alexa and Alexa Fund just made Amazon's smart home and IoT efforts much more interesting, while making the battle for the IoT control and assistance layer more fascinating.
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