Amazon has a history of keeping a low profile at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, but so far, the online retailer has stolen the limelight at the 2017 edition of the tech conference thanks to Alexa, its popular artificial intelligence-powered virtual voice assistant.
Alexa has been an early hit at the Las Vegas conference as several new products have been announced with integrations that use the Amazon assistant, such as LG's new refrigerator, an air purifier, and even a humanoid robot.
"We have a rich pipeline of Alexa voice service equipment that will be released over the coming months," said Mike George, Amazon's vice president of Echo and Alexa, at the LG press event at CES on Tuesday, according to GeekWire.
Since the 2015 debut of the Echo speaker, Amazon has made headway in the artificial intelligence market with products that let users easily put Alexa to use through various commands. These include asking Alexa for information about sports or the weather, asking her to set reminders, or requesting music from Spotify.
Seemingly out of left field, Amazon's Alexa has risen as a formidable foe against the likes of Apple's Siri, Google's Now, and Microsoft's Cortana. After the embarrassing flop of the Fire Phone, Amazon was left out of the lucrative smartphone market, unlike chief rivals Google and Apple. That setback forced Amazon to get resourceful by releasing products for the home that at first blush seemed like little more than smart speakers that let their owners order more trash bags or light bulbs with a verbal command. Now, at CES 2017, Amazon is looking to expand beyond the Echo's core functionality with integrations that will place Alexa in smart products consumers can purchase for any part of their homes.
"Amazon is taking a smart approach by making its software compatible with other products," said Mark Clifton, CEO and founder of Princeton Identity, an identity management company. "If Google, Apple, and Microsoft are to compete with Amazon, they'll need to make a tough decision about how compatible and open they choose to be."
"Amazon has a real first-mover advantage in building a community of third-party developers and device manufacturers," said Jason Krikorian, general partner at DCM Ventures.
This strategy of working with outside parties, which has been hailed by analysts, leaves Google and Microsoft playing catch-up. When Microsoft's Windows rose to prominence, the Redmond, Washington, company persuaded partners to integrate its operating system into their desktop computers. Similarly, Google's Android became Apple's chief rival after Google partnered with phone manufacturers. Now, Amazon is expanding its established dominance of the virtual assistant market in the exact same way.
"Alexa isn't technically an OS per se, but it fulfills a similar role," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. "It's become very clear this week that Alexa is by far the voice platform of choice even for vendors who use Android for much of their hardware."
Though Microsoft's Cortana assistant lives on Windows, the company's hardly used phones, and the Xbox One, it has gained little traction. At this point, it's essentially a lost cause. Apple's Siri and Google Now still dominate their respective smartphones, but Alexa has proven that demand for a virtual assistant goes beyond a device that sits in your hand or your pocket.
"Alexa is clearly having incredible momentum, and it's a compelling value proposition to integrate a new consumer electronic device with Amazon's Alexa ecosystem," said Johnny Won, founder of Hyperstop, a tech consulting firm. "But," he added, "with the way voice activation works, this race is far from over."