- Amazon and Intel have partnered on a couple of new initiatives, including a form factor reference design using Intel's smart speaker technology, which will allow more developers to create devices leveraging far-afield voice recognition and interaction capabilities integrated into the e-commerce giant's Alexa virtual assistant technology platform.
- The reference design will be available in the first quarter of 2017.
- The pair also announced that Intel has incorporated Alexa's voice controls into its Smart Home Hub, with an eye toward encouraging developers to create more connected home products that can be controlled via Alexa. Amazon's virtual assistant capability already has some smart home control capabilities through the Amazon Echo and LG's SmarThinQ hub.
Don't be surprised if Alexa sounds tired the next time you talk to her — she had a really busy week at Amazon's re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. First, we heard about Amazon releasing core Alexa technology to the developer community, intended to drive development of more devices with Alexa-like capabilities. Then we heard about Amazon's new Alexa Accelerator, intended to drive more entrepreneurs and startups to build their own solutions leveraging Alexa technology. Both of these moves appeared to be efforts to build up the ecosystem around Alexa, as well as the broader but still embryonic ecosystem around conversational commerce.
Amazon's alignment with Intel, a teaming of giants in their respective sectors, is another way to do that, and another piece of the puzzle for developers looking to build new devices and experiences around Amazon's wildly popular virtual assistant technology. It would not be a surprise in the coming year to see a startup, having tapped into Amazon's Lex, Polly or Rekognition technology components, successfully emerge from the Alexa Accelerator program with a prototype device built on Intel form factor reference design.
Maybe it's not supposed to happen so neatly as that, and maybe it won't, but Amazon is covering all those different bases.
The integration of Alexa with Intel's Smart Home Hub represents another angle on how Amazon is trying to spread the technology into every possible device or architecture. Building the Alexa ecosystem is not just about backing enterprising startups and developers with fresh ideas. It's also necessary to get the technology into established platforms, where it might be able to add a new dimension (and where Amazon might be able to sell more merchandise).
Putting Alexa into Intel's smart home system might seem odd after Amazon want to the trouble to give Alexa some home control skills through its own Echo device, but despite Amazon's growing business selling its own devices, the company recognizes that selling a few of your own devices may not be as big of a deal as owning and expanding the potential of a technology that can power a much broader range of devices.