- Amazon is letting more gadget makers use its software tools to connect Bluetooth devices like smart watches and headphones with its Alexa digital assistant, according to a company blog post. The Alexa Mobile Accessory (AMA) Kit helps software developers working for a brand or agency create voice-enabled Alexa apps that work on a broader range of wireless devices.
- Chipmaker Qualcomm introduced a "smart headset" as the first Amazon-approved prototype to give device makers a blueprint for Alexa-powered wireless headphones. The $299 headset connects with the Alexa smartphone app, letting wearers use voice commands for music, smart-home devices and thousands of "skills," as Alexa apps are called.
- Amazon in January first debuted the AMA Kit at the Consumer Electronics Show for a limited number of devices. At that time, the e-commerce giant aimed to showcase its efforts to get Alexa into on-the-go devices like "hearables," headphones that have advanced wireless technology.
Amazon's general release of the AMA Kit is helpful for marketers and brands that have created voice-powered Alexa skills to hold conversations with their customers. While Amazon's software tools are mostly aimed at device makers that want to avoid spending time and money to develop a customized Alexa skill, marketers need to make sure they're ready to interact with customers on all devices that work with Alexa. Brands will soon have many more communication channels with customers on Bluetooth-connected headsets, smart watches and other wearables, and those millions of customers who already are using Alexa at home to research new products, make shopping lists or to handle other tasks will soon expect the same conveniences while they're on the go.
With the next Consumer Electronics Show quickly approaching in January, gadget makers already have thought past this year's holiday season to the products they plan to introduce next year. Amazon's widened release of its AMA Kit likely presages more announcements from electronics companies that will include Alexa capabilities in more Bluetooth-connected devices, if the past two CES exhibitions are any indication of what to expect in 2019.
Amazon regained the lead in smart-speaker market share in Q3 2018 after lagging behind archrival Google during the prior six months, according to a report from researcher Canalys. Amazon shipped 6.3 million Alexa-powered Echo smart speakers in Q3, while Google sold 5.9 million of its Google Home devices that use its Google Assistant. Amazon promoted the Echo ahead of its annual Prime Day shopping event, while Google cut prices of its Google Home speaker to remain competitive, per Canalys. Smart-speaker shipments more than doubled (up 137%) to 19.7 million in Q3 2018 from a year earlier.
In September, Amazon introduced another way for marketers to earn money from their Alexa skills by charging extra fees for extra features like fresh content, hints in a trivia game or other "freemium" consumables. The number of apps in the Alexa skill store ballooned to more than 50,000 by September from 40,000 in early May.