In short, Amazon is building the operating system of the home – its name is Alexa – and it has all of the qualities of an operating system you might expect:
- All kinds of hardware manufacturers are lining up to build Alexa-enabled devices, and will inevitably compete with each other to improve quality and lower prices.
- Even more devices and appliances are plugging into Alexa’s easy-to-use and flexible framework, creating the conditions for a moat: appliances are a lot more expensive than software, and much longer lasting, which means everyone who buys something that works with Alexa is much less likely to switch.
It’s definitely an interesting case to make – and Ben Thomspon does it well – but I still have a very, very hard time seeing voice-driven interfaces as anything but a gimmick at this point in time. Every point I made about this subject in the Summer of 2016 still stands today – limited functionality, terrible speech recognition, inability to deal with dialects and accents, and the complete and utter lack of support for people who live multilingual lives.
I can’t hammer this last point home often enough: not a single one of the voice-driven interfaces we have today – Alexa, Siri, Google Now, Google Assistant, Cortana, whatever – support multilingual use. Some of them may allow you to go deep into a menu structure to change input language (while some, like smartwatches, even require a full wipe and reset), but that’s not a solution to the problem of switching language sometimes even several times a minute, something multilingual people have to do dozens of times every day. And again – there are literally hundreds of millions of people who lead multilingual lives.
Heck, Alexa is only available in English and German!
If voice-driven interfaces are really as important as people make them out to be, they’ve got at least a decade of development ahead of them before they become actually useful and usable for the vast majority of the world.
I would have no idea why multilingual use is shunned. Being an English speaking American, it doesn’t affect me. But google translate seems to work well, so if google can do it, the brainiacs that Amazon employs/outsources should be able to sort it out.
I recently got an echo for xmas. I like it, it is convenient. The app is really nice to see a history of activity that Alexa did, or was asked to do.
Personally, I don’t think I’m going to dive into the whole home automation thing. At least not the part where I’m speaking to Alexa to turn on room lights. I did turn off the voice ordering feature. I don’t want my kids ordering 200 pounds of nestle chocolate bars because they think it’s funny.
I mainly use the streaming music feature, and recipe skill. And ask it the weather and sports scores.
I personally have an Alexa and of course Siri and I understand their both ‘English speakers’ and so I need to speak to them in English. This works fine, so it’s really not a huge deal.
I don’t get what your issue is – you speak English to those who only speak English – why can’t you speak English/German/whatever to a machine which only speaks that language?
Anyway, there is at least 250 million consumers ( not just people, but people who buy stuff ) in the US who are going to be able to use an English only voice interface. That is a huge market that will drive these innovations, much as the English speaking internet drove internet innovations.
PS. English is my 5th language.
Edited 2017-01-06 01:12 UTC