It was easy to miss the announcement yesterday of several new incentives and tools for Google Assistant app developers. Voicebot provided in-depth coverage of the new devices and expansion of Google Home and Actions on Google to new countries. However, there were some other announcements of even greater interest to the developer community that will also be felt by users in terms of new apps and features on the Google Assistant platform. We will focus on just four announcements here:
Templates to Enable More Rapid Google Assistant App Development
Google introduced templates for building Google Assistant apps yesterday. The introduction of templates by Amazon in its Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) helped drive up the number of voice applications to over 25,000. That is over 30 times higher than the number of Google Assistant apps today. Templates will enable less sophisticated developers build Assistant apps quickly and likely will reduce common errors than can undermine usability. Google Product Manager Brad Abrams commented in a blog post yesterday:
With new templates, you can create your own trivia game, flash card app or personality quiz for the Google Assistant without writing code or doing any complex server configurations. All you have to do is add some questions and answers via a Google Sheet. Within minutes, voilà, you can try it out on your Google Assistant and publish it!
This is one way to get more apps on the platform and start expanding the developer ecosystem. There will be a risk that we will start to see a large number of low quality Google Assistant apps, but the lower barrier to entry may produce some gems that drive user interest and engagement.
Enabling Google Assistant Transactions
The availability of Google Assistant transactions may be the most important announcement by Google this week. Voice commerce is a critical use case and Google will be the first to enable it for third-party apps directly through the voice assistant. Amazon has this for its own sales, but Alexa skill developers cannot sell directly from their apps. They can only conduct transactions through account linking. Google can begin to carve out a bigger role in voice commerce if developers start integrating transactional capabilities. In addition to purchases, this feature set will also enable Google Assistant apps to allow a user to “see their order history, get status updates and more.” In addition, transactions could directly address developer concerns about monetization on voice assistant platforms. Every voice assistant platform needs this capability and soon.
Google Assistant Apps for Children
Google wisely calls these Apps for Families. However, what it really means is that these Google Assistant apps are not only “family friendly,” but also legal. Amazon recently started allowing Alexa skills designed and marketed to children. The previous barrier was based on legal restrictions created by the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). However, changes to COPPA in June opened the door for both Amazon and Google to allow voice apps designed for children. Children are a great audience for Google Assistant apps and developers can now build games and educational resources that will only increase usage of Google Home. You can learn more about the Apps for Families policies here.
Google Assistant App Developer Incentives
Finally, Google is mirroring a key tactic that has worked well for Amazon in building its Alexa developer ecosystem. Google is now offering incentives such as T-shirts and the potential to earn a Google Home. Many developers are clearly motivated by these giveaways considering the regular discussions about rewards in Alexa developer groups. We should expect a similar level of enthusiasm for current and new Google Assistant app developers. In addition, Google is enabling developers to earn up to $200 per month in Google Cloud credits. This is important because the cloud hosting fees can be a disincentive for developers to launch new Assistant apps if they don’t yet have a revenue model. This level of credit should help the independent developers by assuring their out-of-pocket expenses are limited or nil.