This question comes up pretty regularly, thought Amazon is not always the first to admit it: How many skills does Alexa have?
Voicebot.ai follows and tracks this information and over this past weekend, Amazon’s skills database has reportedly surpassed 20,000.
Why is this important?
Like any “app” store, the number of skills is important for only a single reason, and that is to prove the popularity of the platform. As much as we’d like to dismiss the idea that the number of “apps” is a key indicator for a thriving platform, it shows developer intent. The more popular the platform, the more you can expect developers to continue making new apps, or in this case, skills.
Amazon’s skill database is like any other apps store, in that the majority of available skills are crap. There’s some true gems in the mass of skills, but they are sometimes hard to find – which is one reason why our “Alexa Skill of the Week” series has become so popular. We recently added a new “Alexa-enabled Product of the Week” which is proving to be just as popular.
But, even with the lack of quality skills and the lack of ability to properly expose the best ones through Amazon’s actual skills database, other platform vendors would love to have Amazon’s problems. As much as Windows Phone users would hate to admit it, Microsoft’s handset hardware business and mobile operating system died due to lack of apps – or, rather, lack of developer interest in creating apps.
Even Microsoft seems to see the writing on the wall. Attempting to salvage its Cortana assistant, the company recently announced a partnership with Amazon to deliver a somewhat muted cross-device compatibility between Alexa and Cortana. On the surface, the partnership favors Amazon and helps continue the company’s dominance. We’ll have to watch to see exactly what Microsoft can glean from this relationship, but its unclear at the moment. There’s some speculation already that Microsoft may want to peer into Amazon customers shopping habits – but that doesn’t seem logical. At the end of the day, Microsoft just wants to promote its web-based services (like Office 365 and Azure) on the most popular platforms – and Amazon’s Alexa definitely fits that strategy.
So, even to Microsoft, the 20,000 skills number is important. Microsoft has struggled to get developers to create just around 60 add-ons for Cortana. By partnering with Amazon, Cortana gets access to that large database of capability.
Google and Apple are struggling in this area – and then there are other outlying AI platforms like Bixby from Samsung. 20,000 is an important number, but not as important as the qualified number of abilities that serve to connect every aspect of life. As Google, Apple, and others scramble to improve just their service, Amazon continues to push its Alexa AI into everyday devices from speakers to pianos (yes, pianos), and, also into next generation devices like robots.
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