Alexa Loses Her Voice, For Real
Prime Cut: For last month’s Super Bowl, Amazon proposed a scenario in which Alexa fell silent. The comical commercial gave founder/CEO Jeff Bezos his first TV cameo, and an excuse to feature Alexa wannabes Cardi B, Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins, among others. Well, last week the joke was on Jeff, as customers across the country lost access to Amazon’s virtual assistant.
TWICE Take: Turns out Alexa’s laryngitis was due to a network outage at an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud facility in Northern Virginia, which also affected Slack and other AWS-dependent applications. The issue was resolved in a matter of hours, ending the horror of turning on lights and writing out shopping lists by hand.
See the full story at ZD Net.
Amazon, Google Resume Smart-Home Turf War
Prime Cut: The digital goliaths got into it again after presumably resolving a previous dust-up in December. In that skirmish, Google blocked YouTube access to Echo Show and Fire TV devices in retaliation for Amazon’s sales ban on Chromecast dongles.
TWICE Take: Now comes word that while the Chromecast peace talks were taking place, Amazon informed Google’s Nest team that it won’t be carrying any of the brand’s newest thermostats or home security gear — a decision that reportedly came from Bezos himself. Turns out Amazon was likely finalizing the deal to buy its own big-name smart-home company, Ring, which it will acquire for more than $1 billion. In response, Google is ending sales of all Nest products on Amazon once the current inventory is depleted.
See the full story at TWICE.
Somebody’s Watching Me
Prime Cut: Imagine suddenly receiving unbidden snapshots of your front door, porch and shrubbery. Before calling the police, check with Amazon: its nascent Photo on Delivery program, part of the company’s Amazon Logistics delivery network, may have just come to your town.
TWICE Take: Though creepy in concept, the six-month-old service is designed to confirm delivery of packages, show customers exactly where the parcels were left, and to compel drivers to actually make the drop off. So far the program is available in Seattle, San Francisco and Northern Virginia, and camera-shy customers can opt out on Amazon’s website.
See the full story at USA Today.
Well, Here’s Another Clue For You All
Prime Cut: Last week we shared speculation that Amazon may have a finalist in its where-to-build-a-second-headquarters competition, based on company web traffic to a story about Arlington, Va. Giving that clue further credence: a tour last week of nine metro Washington sites by Amazon execs, who also had breakfast with Virginia’s governor.
TWICE Take: While it’s still not certain whether the lovers’ state has won over Amazon, there’s at least one locale that clearly has not. Greater Cincinnati officials were formally notified that they’re out of the running, right around the time of that gubernatorial get-together. The reason, the e-tailer said, was the town’s shallow high-tech labor pool.
Alexa Primed As Next Big Computing Platform, Warts And All
Prime Cut: Even Dave Limp, the exec in charge of Amazon’s devices and services, was surprised by all the third-party gadgets at CES that were powered by Alexa. It’s that ubiquity, along with the tens of millions of Echoes that were sold last year alone, which gives her the best shot at becoming our next default computing platform, following in the footsteps of Windows, iOS and Android.
TWICE Take: But the ride, argues New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo, will be bumpy. Alexa’s open platform gives rise to bad implementations and quality control issues, while even his own Echo Dot was not immune to a meltdown — waking on its own in the middle of the night and emitting a wailing, child-like scream.
See the full story at The New York Times.
Amazon Quote Of The Week
“Nothing is more self-destructive to a retail business than having an endcap display that has Amazon Echos on it.” — Mycroft CEO Joshua Montgomery on his forthcoming open-source Mark II smart speaker