Amazon Alexa Skills Kit Now Available in France
Amazon announced today in a blog post that the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is now available in France. This doesn’t mean that Alexa or Echo are available in France today, but does point to the near-term arrival of a French speaking voice assistant.
“We are excited to announce that developers can now start creating experiences for customers in France using Alexa Skills Kit. The skills that developers are now creating will be available to customers when Alexa launches in France later this year. Manufacturers of commercially available hardware developing devices with integrated Alexa for French customers may request early access to the developer preview [of] Alexa Voice Service … by invitation.”
Getting Developers On Board Before Product Launch
ASK is used by developers. Amazon may be falling into a pattern of announcing ASK availability first and then following it several months later with commercial availability of Alexa and Echo products. For example, Amazon announced support for Australian English language localization in late November 2017 and then started shipping Echo products for consumers on February 1, 2018 with the formal product shipment date announced in January. The lead time offers developers the opportunity to build new Alexa skills localized to the country and language before the products are available to consumers. In turn, consumers get access to third-party skills on Alexa from the start.
And, its not just about new developers in France. ASK has language models that support conversion from languages such as English to French. Given that there are over 29,000 Alexa skills just for U.S. users, the conversion tools present an opportunity to deliver many new skills quickly. The blog post goes on to comment:
“If you are already an Alexa developer and want to address new customers in France, you can optimize your existing skill by adding the new French language model…”
What About Canada and Other Supported Countries?
The obvious questions now are when will the French people get access to Alexa and whether Canadian French speakers will soon be supported. Amazon’s PR department deftly deflected answering those questions, but my guess is that you will see Alexa and Echo launched in France in about 60 days and Canadian French support will come sometime thereafter.
Why 60 days? Well, Google Home has been in France since August 2017 which I’m sure was difficult for Amazon to accept and Apple HomePod is expected to ship in France this spring. Amazon almost certainly doesn’t want to arrive behind another global smart speaker player so the HomePod shipment is a catalyst to get to market as soon as possible. Besides, there will be a lot of media coverage of HomePod when it finally lands in France and if Amazon has Echo in market at that time, it will get a lot of free publicity as a low-cost HomePod alternative. Otherwise Amazon will cede more mindshare to Google in the country. Another reason for the 60 day estimate is that was the lead time between announcing ASK for Australia and the product launch. Then again, past performance does not indicate future returns…or so I’m often told.
Here is a quick reference on where you can can buy Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod today and where announcements have been made of products coming soon.
|Country||Amazon Echo||Google Home||Apple HomePod|
|Australia||Feb 2018||2017||Feb 2018|
|France||TBD 2018||2017||TBD 2018|
|New Zealand||Feb 2018|
|United Kingdom||2016||2017||Feb 2018|
|United States||2014||2016||Feb 2018|