Amazon is working with homebuilders and hoteliers to make its smart speaker and artificial-intelligence system a part of everyday life for new customers. The company has put its engineers to work behind the scenes to make implementation easier, seeing wide market opportunities.
The Maple Valley home that Arnold and Armida Rosales bought came with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, several walk-in closets and Amazon’s Alexa.
The couple were familiar with Apple’s Siri but had never used Amazon’s voice-activated software until they moved into a newly built home that came with it. “We really hadn’t thought about technology in the house,” Arnold Rosales said.
They were pleasantly surprised. The Rosaleses now use Alexa to toggle lights and door locks, and to play music. Their younger son uses the devices to call up and listen to short stories.
“My children love it,” Arnold Rosales said.
The emerging market for smart speakers, and the voice-activated software that makes them tick, is among the most fiercely contested battlegrounds in consumer technology today.
Amazon introduced Alexa in its Echo devices, the cylindrical pairing of speaker and powerful microphone array that first went on sale in 2014. The device was a surprise hit, helping to popularize voice-controlled software in the home.
Deep-pocketed technology giants are trying to chip away at Amazon’s lead, with some success. Google’s Home speaker outsold the Echo lineup during the first three months of 2018, according to Canalys, a researcher, marking the first quarter in which another company sold more smart speaker units than Amazon.
Amazon is trying to hold its advantage in the long term with a hiring spree targeting software engineers, speech and data scientists to build Alexa’s conversation skills. The company this week was seeking about 1,500 workers for its Alexa team.
The Seattle company is also using a playbook that makers of emerging technology — from operating systems to video-game consoles — have relied on to cement their product as the default option: building sales, developer and customer-support teams charged with finding new uses for Alexa, and extending its utility into specific lines of business.