There is no official competition at the annual CES gathering in Las Vegas, but the media is always happy to pick winners. This year the overwhelming choice of pundits for the 2017 champion is Amazon’s Alexa despite the fact that Amazon had no official presence at the show. Nice trick.
- Wall Street Journal: How Amazon’s Alexa Won CES 2017 (Video)
- ZDNet: Amazon’s Alexa Won CES, but Faces a Tough War
- Network World: Amazon Alexa ‘wins’ CES but how well does the virtual assistant really perform?
- Techtimes: Amazon’s Alexa is the Real Star of CES 2017
- WIRED: Amazon Just Conquered CES. The World is Next.
You get the picture. There are many more of these similar headlines and this article will only serve to perpetuate the narrative. However, some narratives happen to be true based on the evidence. But, the evidence for Alexa’s dominant presence at CES 2017 goes beyond a few headlines.
How Did Amazon Win CES Without Being There
Amazon may not have had an official presence at CES, but its Alexa voice assistant was just about everywhere. Most people are familiar with Alexa through Amazon’s Echo. However, Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) makes the voice assistant available to third-party developers to incorporate into their products. GE, Whirlpool, Samsung, Ford and other big manufacturers highlighted Alexa integration as a key feature of their products. Smart watches, robots and home automation technologies also joined the chorus.
Even more interesting to some were the new products which introduced Alexa in devices that were clear competitors to Amazon’s Echo. Lenovo introduced a near Echo clone with the exception of some styling differences and Harmon Kardon speakers under the hood. Mattel and startup C-Way each offered Alexa assistants targeted for families with children.
Amazon is Building a Developer Ecosystem
Amazon is building a vast developer ecosystem. This is a critical strategy given that it doesn’t have a billion smartphones in circulation like Google and Apple which also have an interest in capturing consumer interest in AI-powered voice assistants. The company easily has the most home based assistants in use in the U.S. with an estimated seven million sold to date but knows that Google’s assistant and Apple’s Siri are already in automobiles and other third-party devices beyond their mobile phone presence. In those sectors, Amazon needed to catch up. CES seems to confirm that the strategy is working and Amazon’s lead is growing.
Alexa even has a growing presence on mobile phones. Huawei announced Alexa integration for its newest top-of-the-line phone. The company’s stated goal is to become the number one smartphone manufacturer in the world. If Huawei succeeds and maintains the Alexa voice assistant over time, Amazon may even outnumber the consumer access of Apple and Google through its Android operating system.
Amazon Cares Most About the Software
The presence of so many Alexa-enabled devices including some that compete directly with Amazon’s own Echo confirms another point. To Amazon, this isn’t a device play. The company likely earned between $300-500 million on the sale of Echo and Echo Dots in 2016, but its focus in on the software. When consumers use Alexa on any device, they stay within the Amazon ecosystem which gives the company a big advantage in customer knowledge and offers the potential value of integrating voice experiences across a range of purpose-built devices. Voice computing is becoming ubiquitous and Alexa aims to be everywhere.
CES 2018 will be telling. Will there be more Alexa devices or will it show Google, Apple, Microsoft and others catching up?