Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Developing for the Amazon Echo

Genady Okrain:

While people might argue that you can send an app to Apple for review and later change it completely from your backend. It is uncommon for people to do so. With Amazon Alexa Skills, you can update your response at any time. I am unsure if they monitor your updates and review them later.


To install a skill people need to have the Alexa app on their phone, this app is not a native app but some kind of web app and it’s really hard to navigate and use. While the capabilities of the Echo are remarkable, the app experience is very poor.

One important missing thing in the skills store is selling skills, currently everything is free. You can use your login and handle everything by yourself, but without a real business model for developers, I can’t see skills as a real game changer. Only small skills like ours and add ons for already existing services are possible.

The Echo initially sounded redundant to me, since I have an iPhone with “Hey Siri” and HomeKit support. But Siri is slower, doesn’t work when the phone is in my pocket, and doesn’t have an API. Amazon’s digital hub for the home seems to support more devices. Apparently, it even works with music from iTunes, via an iOS app. I still don’t really know what I would use it for, but it seems promising.

Update (2016-05-09): David Sparks:

Amazon’s Echo does a better job of parsing the question and giving you useful information. Too often, Siri gets confused because you don’t ask the question just right. Also, the Amazon Echo has never done that thing where it seems to understand me perfectly only report it can’t answer my question because of some mysterious problem out there on the Internet … somewhere. Either way, in the Sparks household the Amazon Echo has been a clear winner for my wife and children.

Update (2016-05-10): Daniel Jalkut:

One of his key points was that Alexa, by being theoretically less capable than Siri, manages to avoid the heightened expectations and subsequent disappointment that users feel when Siri fails to listen as well as it promises to. It may be less competent overall, but what it does do it does predictably and well.

A comparison that came immediately to my mind was Apple’s mid-1990’s failure with the Newton handheld computer.

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[…] and innovation would be greatly slowed, and lots of interesting things would never be possible. Amazon’s approach of letting Alexa Skills add their own terminology makes a lot more sense. I care much more about […]

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