She Came In Through The PC Window
Prime Cut: In a stunning move, PC makers HP, Acer and Asus announced at CES that they will begin incorporating Alexa into select Windows 10 laptops and all-in-ones through a new “skill” that’s expected later this year.
TWICE Take: Amazon’s ultimate Trojan Horse may be the PC, which can conceivably put its perky virtual assistant at the beck and call of hundreds of millions of potential new customers. Perhaps more than smart speakers, the move could also usher in the era of Star Trek-like repartee with our computers.
Here, There And Everywhere
Prime Cut: Last year Amazon let Alexa do most of the talking at CES, and this week hundreds of smart-device makers are expected to join the cacophony in Las Vegas. What’s different this go-around is that Amazon itself will be all pervasive as it looks to consolidate its 70 percent-plus share of the smart speaker market and further infuse our homes and lives with its know-it-all assistant.
TWICE Take: As part of Amazon’s in-your-face presence at CES, Alexa will dominate a voice-control conference track; will be the subject of a series of how-to developer workshops; and will be touted by Alexa execs at a pair of smart-device panels. Amazon is also loaning out Echoes to Alexa-connected exhibitors, and is parking its traveling smart-home trailer and Treasure Truck outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Hey Google, You’re Gonna Take That From Alexa?
Prime Cut: No, the folks from Mountain View aren’t taking Alexa’s inroads lying down. While Google has traditionally been a no-show at CES, this week the company is countering Amazon’s omnipresence with a bit of flag-waving of its own in Las Vegas.
TWICE Take: Most immediately noticeable are the giant “Hey Google” banners splashed across the Las Vegas Monorail, which should wake up more than just the company’s virtual assistant. Inside the show, a bevy of manufacturers are touting new interoperability with the company’s AI platform, including a speaker and TVs from LG, a universal smart-home remote from start-up Lynky, and an intelligent toilet from Kohler, among others.
Alexa, What’s Cooking?
Prime Cut: They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so maybe the key to the smart home is through the kitchen. So believeth Amazon, which is expanding Alexa’s reach with a new skill API that will allow consumers to control their connected microwave ovens by voice.
TWICE Take: The new four-part skill set will allow Amazon’s virtual assistant to set microwave cook times, modes, power levels, and other complex functions by voice command. Such directives could include “Alexa, defrost three pounds of chicken,” or “Alexa, microwave for 50 seconds on high,” Amazon said. Whirlpool is first out of the gate with the new cooking capabilities, and is expected to show them off this week at its CES booth (Sands 41725).
Elsewhere In Amazon…
The Prime Directive
Prime Cut: Amazon is riding into CES on a head of steam, having garnered about 4 percent of all U.S. retail sales in 2017, according to analytics provider One Click Retail, and grabbing more greenbacks over the holidays than any of its retail rivals, said market research firm Field Agent. It’s not-so-secret weapon: Amazon Prime.
TWICE Take: According to Amazon, its $99/year loyalty program shipped more than 5 billion items worldwide last year via Prime, and has doubled the number of items now eligible for “free” unlimited two-day shipping, from more than 50 million to over 100 million. To handle all that freight, Amazon increased its global fulfillment and shipping network by more than 30 percent in square footage, and now boasts an armada of over 6,000 trailers and 32 Amazon Air planes in the U.S. alone.
Leveraging Alexa: Are Paid Ads Next?
Prime Cut: Amazon is reportedly in talks with a number of consumer product companies including Proctor & Gamble and Clorox to explore ways of promoting their brands or goods on Alexa.
TWICE Take: The advent of voice and AI is challenging marketers to find new ways to reach consumers without their traditional packaging and video-ad aids. In one scenario, the virtual assistant would provide recommendations to voice shoppers based on their searches or buying patterns to provide more targeted sales opportunities for advertisers.
Amazon Quote Of The Week
“More of Amazon’s core demographic (millennials) are growing up: they’re increasingly owning homes, raising children, and buying a ton of stuff to go with it.” — One Click Retail CEO Spencer Millerberg on Amazon’s 4 percent share of U.S. retail sales last year