Why We May Soon Be Driving and Living in Alexa’s World, in fact, we won’t be able top get along without her. Unless Google or Apple’s will say I do!
- “We had a spectacular holiday,” Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, said when I called last month to chat about the assistant’s future.
- Amazon is famously cagey about sales numbers, but Mr. Limp braved a slight disclosure: “We’ve said we’ve sold tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices, but I can assure you that last year we also sold tens of millions of just Echo devices. At that scale, it’s safe to now call this a category.”
- At least 50 devices are now powered by Alexa, and more keep coming. They include dozens of Echo-like smart speakers, home thermostats, light fixtures, dashboard cameras, smartphones, headphones, a smoke alarm and a very strange robot.
- But there are also advantages to Alexa’s model for ubiquity. Imagine if you could gain access to your smartphone on just about any screen you encountered. Move from your phone to your TV to your laptop to your car, and wherever you went, you’d find all your apps, contacts and data just there, accessible through the same interface.
- That model isn’t really possible for phones. But because Alexa runs in the cloud, it allows for a wondrously device-agnostic experience. Alexa on my Echo is the same as Alexa on my TV is the same as Alexa on my Sonos speaker.
- And it’s the same even on devices not in your home. Ford — the first of several carmakers to offer Alexa integration in its vehicles — lent me an F-150 pickup outfitted with Alexa. The experience was joyously boring: I called up Alexa while barreling down the highway, and although she was slower to respond than at home, she worked just the same. She knew my musical tastes, my shopping list, the apps and smart-home services I had installed, and just about everything else.
- It was the best showcase of the possibilities of always-on voice computing. In the future, wherever you go, you can expect to talk to a computer that knows you, one that can get stuff done for you without any hassle.