The Good News And The Quagmire
The rapid pace of Alexa Skills is quite unlike any other point in history. In May, 2016 there were just 950 developer skills on the base of the Amazon indigenous skills. This is over a 10x increase in growth in just a few months with no end in sight.
The historic 10,000 skill is:
Beat the Intro: a name that tune game.
This is all great news for Amazon and the Alexa platform. The Alexa Skill Kit has only been widely available since June 25, 2015 .
The launch developer skills included:
StubHub– an online marketplace for sports, concert, theater, and other live entertainment event tickets is using Alexa to enable customers to purchase tickets and more using voice. “At StubHub, we are constantly thinking of ways to make the live event experience easier and more fun,” said Parag Vaish, Head of Mobile at StubHub. “By bringing StubHub’s great experience to Alexa, we’re able to reach more fans by allowing our customers to use their voice to engage with our content to do things like ask, ‘Alexa, ask StubHub what events are happening this weekend near me?’ or ‘Alexa, ask StubHub to send event suggestions to me for tomorrow.’”
Pebblebee– a hardware company making customized Bluetooth trackers and sensors, is using ASK to enable customers to track items and check sensors using voice. “We’ve learned over the past few years that it’s not always intuitive to use a visual app with so many features. Using voice commands simplifies the complexity for customers,” said Daniel Daoura, Co-Founder and CEO of Pebblebee. “We’re thrilled to use the Alexa Skills Kit to integrate Alexa with Pebblebee’s sensor information, so a customer can simply ask, ‘Alexa, find my keys,’ or ‘Alexa, how warm is the baby’s room?’ or ‘Alexa, is my dog nearby?’”
Glympse– a mobile service that provides a fast, free, and simple way to share your location in real time with the people you trust from a GPS-enabled mobile phone, is using ASK to enable customers to request location details via voice. “We are always looking for innovative solutions to expand our ecosystem, and Alexa’s cutting edge voice technology was a natural fit,” said Steve Miller, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Glympse. “Location information—the question of ‘where are you?’ or ‘when will you arrive?’—is pervasive in daily life. We are excited to use the Alexa Skills Kit to make it even easier for people to request location details by saying ‘where is Bob?’ or ‘when will Jack get here?”
10,000 Skills, Now What?
With Alexa Skills now over 10,000 Amazon is at a crossroads. They have proven that Voice First is a vibrant and active developer community, however there are some rather large quagmires that will now only become more monumental:
Discovery– How does one discover a new skill? An visual app store is not logical.
Invocation– How does one remember 100s of invocation words to interact will new skills.
Monetization– How do developers monetize skills so as to fund on going development? No funding means thousand of orphaned skills and abandoned skills.
I spoke to these quagmires in issue number 1 of the Multiplex Magazine, part of the Read Multiplex app (get it ). I will also address these points in the next issue. Here is some of what I said.
One of the largest quagmires ahead is the Voice First discovery system. Under most systems there is a crude app store similar to the very early versions of the iOS and Android app stores. This means that one will need to go to a companion app to surface and discover skills and abilities and install it. Complicating the matter is that we have already learned that the apps store concept creates fatigue to the user. After less than a decade most research points to data that suggests users are you downloading and using less and less apps.
It is clear that the voice first ecosystem will need new discovery systems that are more appropriate to a voice operating system. I have discovered about 50 modalities that would solve most of the discovery quagmires.
Amazon will need to completely rebuild the discovery, invocation and monetization systems in place soon to address these quagmires. The issues will only get a magnitude more complex and completely unattainable as we move to perhaps 50,000 or 100,000 milestone.
So this is really great news for the Alexa ecosystem and very fine work by Amazon and the Alexa developer team, however it is a “good problem:” looming ahead for Amazon. I also think is is a Google-class problem to be solved by a startup or series of startups. More on these startups soon…
____ Alexa Skill Kit Release Announcement  Download Read Multiplex