Amazon has received positive media coverage about its large number of Alexa skills that recently passed the 10,000 mark for the Amazon Echo. The idea is that more Alexa skills (i.e. interactive voice application) equate to more value for users. Amazon has a lot of incentive to push this narrative. Its current voice assistant arch-rival Google Home has only 165 Actions, the rough equivalent of Alexa skills. That puts Google Home’s total at just 1.6% of third-party voice applications available to Amazon Echo users. This is an area where Amazon’s two-year lead to market makes a difference.
Flash Briefings Drive Alexa Skill Counts
One way that Amazon has built up its skill repository so quickly is to make it easy for content publishers to develop information skills. These Flash Briefings represent 24% of all Alexa skills available in the U.S. market. Last week, Amazon announced new developer APIs to facilitate Flash Briefing development for the UK and German markets. The lack of these APIs has no doubt constrained development in these markets as Flash Briefings only represent 5.2% of all German skills and a meager 0.06% of UK skills. The introduction of the API which enables rapid development of skills using RSS feeds and other methods should help quickly grow Flash Briefing counts in both countries.
Google Still Adding Information Service Actions
Google has also been adding information service or news-style Actions to its voice application roster. CNBC, CNN, NBC News, NPR, Straits Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Venture Beat all have Actions on Google today. That total suggests that 4.2% of Actions for Google Home fall into this category.
However, for close watchers of the voice assistant market, it is important to note that there are differences between these Actions and Amazon’s Flash Briefings. For example, The Wall Street Journal has both a Flash Briefing and an Amazon Alexa skill. The former plays a pre-set stream of news, often a single item, while the latter enables a news headline summary, market update or exploration of podcasts. The Wall Street Journal Google Action is more similar to the more robust custom Alexa skill and has additional features such as the ability to have news titles read first and then either moving on or asking for the full story to be read. It’s a nice feature.