First the Home, Now the Office. Amazon Launches Alexa for Business Service
The fact that 11% of US households own an Echo device isn’t enough for Amazon. It also wants to take over the workplace with its new Alexa for Business service:
Alexa for Business brings the Alexa you know and love into the workplace to help all types of workers to be more productive and organized on both personal and shared Echo devices. In the workplace, shared devices can be placed in common areas for anyone to use, and workers can use their personal devices to connect at work and at home.
An Alexa Device In Every Room, at Home or Work
Essentially, Amazon is looking to bring Alexa into the workplace to provide the same type of instant access to information that consumers enjoy at home. Companies can use the service on an Echo as either a shared device or a personal device. For the shared device option, Alexa will act as sort of meeting organizer by turning on video conference equipment or dialing into a conference call. For personal devices, Alexa will have the same productivity skills as the home version (calendar, reminders, etc.) in addition to having access to popular business applications like Salesforce, Concur or Splunk.
Private Alexa Skills for Business
Besides these new features, there is one key difference between Alexa at home and at work: the ability to create private skills. From Amazon’s blog:
Dig into the Alexa Skills Kit and build your own skills. Then you can make these available to the shared devices and enrolled users in your Alexa for Business account, all without having to publish them in the public Alexa Skills Store. Alexa for Business offers additional APIs, which you can use to add context to your skills and automate administrative tasks.
Private skills are probably the main reason a company would choose the Alexa for Business service instead of just implementing Echo devices on their own. Especially considering B2B companies have already started to launch Alexa skills that integrate with their products. For instance, Teem launched an Alexa skill in March that works with its conference scheduling software. There is also the issue of price. The Alexa for Business service isn’t free. Shared devices cost $7 per device per month and enrolled users are an additional $3 per month.
But some companies have already embraced the service, like WeWork and Capital One. For larger companies with the resources to both pay for the service and create private skills, Alexa for Business could be useful. But for everybody else, might as well just add an Echo Dot in the conference room.