An Alexa developer found something interesting this week. A new redirect URL showed up when he was configuring the account linking section for a skill in the Amazon developer portal.
What does this mean? Amazon Alexa support for Japan is imminent and Amazon Echo is coming to Japan soon as Voicebot predicted in March.
How The Finding Tips-off Amazon’s Strategy
The developer that asked not to be named, explained why the presence of this URL offers insight into where Alexa is headed next.
When we do account linking in Alexa, we have to redirect the user to a URL. If it is USA, we use ‘pitangui.amazon.com’. If it is for Europe, we use ‘layla.amazon.com’. When I saw it some days ago I saw this endpoint: ‘alexa.amazon.co.jp’. The ending with jp [is] the Japanese subdomain. So, my guess is that Alexa will be there.
Also, there have been several Amazon job posts looking for japanese developers to work on Alexa, and the Fire TV was released in Japan…So, too many coincidences.
Voicebot had noted in our earlier article about the Fire TV Stick Japanese language support the comments by Amazon Technology Evangelist Mario Viviani. He referred to Alexa, not just automatic speech recognition, when discussing the Fire TV Stick Japan launch. Another coincidence?
Quentin Delaoutre, a leading Amazon Alexa developer known for the Jab Alexa skill, reaffirmed the other developer’s speculation. When asked whether the presence of this URL could indicate something else he commented:
No I don’t thinks so. It’s just another clue that Japan might be the next country for Alexa — not Canada, not France or whatever — and its coming soon!
He also shared the recent Amazon job posting for a Project Manager for Speech and Language Data Services.
Note that is says, “speech and language solutions behind Fire TV and other Amazon products and services.” What other Amazon products and services use speech and language? Echo and Alexa, of course.
The Battle for East Asian Voice Assistants is About to Pick Up Steam
Amazon has already demonstrated that there is demand for voice assistants that provide a good user experience and that early market entry provides advantages in market adoption. Line corporation announced through advertising that it plans to launch the Clova virtual assistant and Wave smart speaker in Japan and Korea this summer. The presence of a redirect URL in the Alexa developer portal doesn’t mean that Alexa will beat Clova to market in Japan. However, we have seen recently that the emergence of new unannounced features in Alexa and Google Home have been quickly followed by product announcements.
Japan is the world’s third largest economy as measured by GDP. Any global business would see value in having greater presence in the country. This is especially true because the world’s second largest economy, China, has not been particularly hospitable to non-Chinese technology companies. Add to that the moves by Chinese tech giants Baidu and Huawei to build voice assistants for China and that market is looking particularly challenging for outsiders. Japan is different. It is very large, has a history of global technology firms succeeding in the country and there appear to be no local companies with large AI-based voice assistants ready for market.
Japan and Alexa Are Both Important to Amazon
Amazon’s Japan ecommerce presence is also the second largest online retailer by market share. Research firm CIRP reported in 2016 that Amazon Echo users in the US that were Prime members increased their spending by 10% after purchasing the device. The opportunity to increase Amazon retail sales by introducing the Echo is yet another reason for the company to move quickly into the country. Japan is very important to Amazon and Alexa is also important. We should expect them soon to come together as an integrated story supporting Amazon’s growing presence in Japan.
Voicebot reached out to Amazon for comment on this story, but had not received a response at the time of publication. We will make updates to this post if we make contact on these topics.