Amazon is Just Getting Started With Alexa/Echo

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Alexa AI and the associated hardware, the Echo and the Dot, are pretty amazing devices. But they’re still in their infancy. We can expect the concepts and technology to continuously grow over the coming years.

Amazon Echo Dot responding to "computer" instead of "Alexa"
The Amazon Echo Dot is Echo’s smaller sibling.

So what’s next for Amazon’s Echo (and even Alphabet’s Google Home)? Would you believe … pulling off my shoe … making phone calls? The Street has the story in a little more visible detail, derived from the paywall WSJ story it links to. “Amazon Echo and Google Home May Soon Be Able to Make Phone Calls.” There are some details to work out, such as privacy and emergency services. But it looks to be coming in 2017.

Speaking of Amazon, in a recent interview, Jeff Bezos had some interesting things to say about the Alexa/Echo technology. In an interview with Billboard, Stephen Witt asked a leading question: “If you succeed, you’ll have placed an Amazon cash register in every house in the country.” The response by Bezos was fascinating and informative. It’s not just about sales. It’s learning how people speak and what their needs are. Bezos:

It’s not about that. For sure, if you have a 2-year-old and you see that you’re running low on diapers, we want to make that easy for you. But voice interface is only going to take you so far on shopping. It’s good for reordering consumables, where you don’t have to make a lot of choices, but most online shopping is going to be facilitated by having a display. Alexa is primarily about identifying tasks in the household that would be improved by voice. Music is one. Another is home automation. So, you can say, “Alexa, turn off all the lights in the house.” “Alexa, turn the temperature up two degrees.” That’s really an amazing thing to be able to do.

Our TMO observations are that the Amazon Dot has been a much more effective home automation hub than Apple’s offerings. But then, Apple’s home automation vision puts a very high priority on security while, for Amazon, the focus is convenience.

For more about the relative capabilities of SIri and Alexa, see this terrific article by our Jeff Butts. “Who’s More Intelligent, Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa?

Today, Amazon has taken the early lead. As Jeff Butt’s writes: “The race certainly isn’t over, but Alexa is in the lead for the time being.” What say you, Siri?

Siri on Alexa

Next page: The news debris for the week of February 13th. Welcome home, traveler!

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Haven’t seen any articles in the last few months proclaiming Apple’s entry into electric vehicle production. Remember when that was the big discussion and everyone was “sure” Apple would produce one? Maybe they discovered vehicle production’s expense wouldn’t generate the margins they need. Clearly, nobody is talking about it. Apple’s focus on AR instead of VR is interesting. VR requires more horsepower than the consumer-oriented devices ( i.e. smartphones ) Apple favors, so its selection allows them to augment their sales leader, the iPhone. Augmenting iPhone capabilities seems to be Apple’s strategy recently with new products ( i.e. watch ).… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Unfortunately, work keeps me from my usual perusal of your PD offerings this week, as well as from a satisfactory deep dive into some of the points raised. One observation might suffice to address a number of related issues, namely that of the capability comparisons between Alexa and Siri. Given the recent and continued rise in the chorus of criticism levelled at a number of Apple products, whatever one might think of any of the merits of any specific criticism, it is important not conflate, for example, end product performance and the strategy behind product development. This is important,… Read more »


Apple has nothing to worry about. Neither the Amazon Echo and Googles Home are flying off the shelves.

Scott B in DC

When I can say, “Alexa, tell me when Amazon or the government is listening in on me,” then I will consider one of these things. I don’t trust Amazon, Google, or the government. And since I am not Edward Snowden, all I will say there is a good reason not to trust the government!


Wang OK I have to share this. It’s a college story so you already know what the joke is. It’s HOW the joke was done. At the University of Oregon the Physics Department had a once a year party calle Wanton Mechanics. (For all I know they still do.) Grad students and faculty were encouraged to do skits making fun of things in the department. (I was a Geology major but emphasizing Planetary Geology so I hung out with the Astronomers. That’s how I got invited.) One of the senior professors was Dr. er…Smith. Yeah we’ll call him Smith. He… Read more »


My wife and I talked about whether to bring a phone on our next trip to the US, (we are both US citizens). I will not. Nor will I bring a computer. My wife OTOH feels she must stay in contact with her work so she will. We will see what happens. This reminds me of Loyalty Oaths back during the MccArthy era. Most signed them thinking it was their patriotic duty. A number of solid American citizens refused to sign them on principle. However you could be sure that any spies were very willing to sign. So now Border… Read more »