Over 100 million devices with Alexa built-in have been sold worldwide to date, Amazon Senior Vice President Dave Limp recently revealed. While the company has no interest in providing a detailed breakdown of the figure, it wants the world — especially investors — to know that its smart product ecosystem is still gaining traction and is building on its original momentum that started being threatened by Google over the course of the last several years. The head of Amazon's Devices & Services division also suggested the company's overall strategy aimed at incentivizing third-party manufacturers and developers to embrace Alexa won't be changing anytime soon, though it's still unclear how the company intends to address the growing mobile gap between its artificial intelligence solution and Google Assistant.
No zero-sum games here
Mr. Limp doesn't appear to be particularly concerned with Google's voice assistant push backed by the ubiquitous nature of Android, primarily because he doesn't see the current state of affairs as a zero-sum game, nor does he expect the market to evolve into one in the foreseeable future. Not only is Amazon's SVP relaxed when it comes to the potential threat Google Assistant poses to Alexa but he actually expects the industry to eventually yield at least another major rival. Though some would argue that's precisely what Microsoft's Cortana is, Mr. Limp seems to believe at least one other major contender for the voice assistant throne will emerge moving forward. On the subject of Cortana, the industry veteran sees the said AI assistant as an example of yet another convention of platform wars that smart devices have already broken – exclusivity. Mr. Limp isn't opposed to the idea of having Alexa supported by systems that also work with rivaling solutions such as Cortana and Google Assistant. That philosophy is largely what led to the Cortana-Alexa integration launched in late summer. Still, not everyone in the industry shares the same sentiment and while the number of intelligent consumer electronics compatible with both Amazon and Google's AI solution is now on the rise, that trend remains relatively novel. It wasn't long ago that Sonos had to threaten Google with legal action in order to receive approval for integrating both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa into its smart speaker One and Alphabet's subsidiary is seemingly still reluctant to embrace competition given how it's the one that has to play catch-up in the smart speaker segment. Apple itself appears to be playing a game of their own, for better or worse, with most industry watchers agreeing Siri is the least capable voice assistant that's currently available on a global level.
The technology executive is equally calm in regards to third-party Alexa devices and their potential to hurt Amazon's AI brand as a whole, having recently stated he believes consumers understand the difference between the software solution offered by Amazon and hardware provided by unaffiliated companies, much like most are aware the majority of Windows computers aren't actually made by Microsoft, nor is the Redmond-based tech giant responsible for them. That isn't to say Amazon adopted a hands-off approach when it comes to growing its AI ecosystem. Much of the company's recent efforts in the field were aimed at incentivizing third parties to embrace Alexa and those that choose to do so are also subjected to its relatively strict approval process meant to ensure Alexa isn't being abused as a pretense for malicious collection of user data.
But winners are still bound to emerge
Even as Amazon's head of devices is downplaying the narrative of Alexa and Google Assistant going out at each other, there's little doubt that the AI assistant race will eventually yield winners and losers based on one easily trackable metrics – market share. Just moments ago, the Mountain View, California-based tech giant announced Google Assistant will be available on over a billion active devices by the end of the month and while that figure can't be directly compared to the volume of Alexa-equipped product sales, it illustrates how Amazon's early dominance in the field in no way guarantees its long-term success. The two rivals are expected to detail their new smart product plans later this week, as part of their appearances at the latest iteration of Consumer Electronics Show which is taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, Tuesday through Friday.