Alexa: I Control the World

Amazon is many things to many people, and now it’s become the king of the smart-speaker market. Parks Associates reports that the online retail giant dominates smart speakers with 70.6 percent of sales, adding that smart speakers are in 11 percent of U.S. broadband households.

The secret sauce in Amazon’s Echo, Dot, and Tap speakers is Alexa voice control, which is also winning new friends on its own. The Dish Network is adding Alexa to its Hopper DVR and Wally sat receiver. (In related news, its Dish Anywhere app now plays live or recorded content on the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.)

Amazon is adding to Alexa’s charms by enabling the voice assistant to turn the speaker into—wait for it—a phone. Update Alexa’s Android or iOS app, and it imports the contacts from your smartphone. Then you’ll be able to call or send voicemail to other Alexa-device owners or users of the app. Alexa is the new Bell System! It will even tell you who’s calling. The next step is video calling, which will be a feature of the Echo Show speaker, available for $230 by the time you read this.

Audio and Internet of Things manufacturers can’t afford to ignore voice activation in speakers or other potential products. The Apple HomePod speaker uses Siri in a comforting ball-of-yarn form factor. Another new entry, the Harman Invoke speaker, will use Microsoft’s Cortana voice-activation platform. TiVo is also planning voice- activated products, according to a group of trademark requests uncovered by blogger Dave Zatz.