Apple's Services Future. It's Going to Be Different.

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Apple’s growing services business, and its increasing openness to having its software on other people’s hardware, is one of the most fascinating stories in tech at the moment. Tech blogger turned venture capitalist M.G. Siegler has written an excellent summary of the situation on Medium. As he says, the future for the company “is going to be… different.”

Incidentally, it was a pod that really started to change the equation. The iPod. In order to reach a wider audience with that device, Apple had to do something that was seemingly against Steve Jobs’ DNA: make software for Windows. (Ice water! In Hell!) And the slope ultimately proved slippery, albeit in a slow way. Eventually, we got (and then lost) Safari for Windows. And in the more recent era, Apple Music for Android. And Alexa.

Alexa - Stop Listening To Me

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Alexa Calling uses your Echo or Alexa app for voice calls

As ever more people buy smart speaker devices likes the Amazon Echo, the privacy concerns around such devices increase too. I’ve always been somewhat wary of them. Not that I’d be discussing much of any interest, but the idea of a device sitting in my home listening out attentively for a keyword, rather freaked me out. For Tom Hoggins, those concerns got too much. He explains in the Telegraph why he unplugged his Amazon Echo Dot.

I am not usually one for tin-hat conspiracies, but with the examples mounting and the increased scrutiny on companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook (among many others) for excessive data gathering, I did start to eye Alexa with some suspicion. It then showed an increased propensity for piping up over the dinner table, playing music without being asked or blurting out random facts when the ‘Alexa’ wake word had not been uttered in earnest. By that point, it was time for Alexa to go unplugged.

HAL-9000: Meet Alexa. Sorry Dave

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The Verge has picked up on an Indiegogo project from the Master Replicas Group. Licensed from Warner Bros, it’s a replica of the HAL-9000 communications station from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. MRG says they’ll marry this unit with Amazon’s Alexa technology.  OMG. Now you can have the best of both of these voice assistants. (Hopefully with none of the downsides.) Pre-order now for January delivery. Starts at US$419.

HAL-9000: Meet Alexa. Sorry Dave

Wyze Cam gets Amazon Alexa Support

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Wyze just addressed one of the biggest requests from Wyze Cam users: Alexa voice control support. Firmware updates are available for the Wyze Cam v2 and Wyze Cam Pan that add Alexa support, along with a few bug fixes. The cameras are great for monitoring your home or business and include a microSD card slot so you can record activity without relying on cloud servers. They’re also surprisingly inexpensive at US$19.99 for the Wyze Cam v2 and $29.99 for the Wyze Cam Pan. You’ll need the Wyze mobile app to install the firmware update. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Wyze Skill for Alexa yet, so we still need to wait for that.

Wyze Cam gets Amazon Alexa Support

Alexa Lets You be a Host in Westworld: The Maze Game

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If you have an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-capable device you can explore HBO’s Westworld in a new game called Westworld: The Maze. It’s like a choose your own adventure game where you’re a Host looking for the center of the maze while trying to not let on that you’ve become self aware. It’s also like a trivia game because you have to answer questions about the series. You’ll need to enable the Westworld: The Maze skill, and then say “Alexa, open Westworld” to start playing.

This $2 App Brings Amazon Alexa to Your Apple Watch...Sort Of

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An Apple Watch app called Voice in a Can is seeking to satisfy the desires of those who love Apple hardware but rely on Amazon Alexa for its home automation capabilities. As a standalone app, Voice in a Can runs entirely on the Apple Watch without needing to pair with the iPhone. With just a Wi-Fi or LTE connection you ask Alexa to control your home lights, unlock the door, or set your thermostat. However, since Apple prevents third party apps from replacing Siri, you can’t use Voice in a Can to have Alexa make calls or control the audio playback on your watch. It’s by no means a perfect solution, but it’s the best Alexa users have thus far until Amazon and Apple work out an official solution. Grab it now on the App Store for $1.99.

This $2 App Brings Amazon Alexa to Your Apple Watch…Sort Of