Amazon Opens Up Alexa for Business to Device Makers
Amazon announced yesterday in a blog post that it was opening up Alexa for Business integration to device makers. Alexa for Business was launched in December 2017 and enables companies to have private installations of Amazon Echo devices. That means it can have private Alexa skills and also manage the smart speaker configurations and control access from a centralized dashboard. Users pay for the service as a monthly subscription based on either the number of devices or users. Several organizations have implemented the solution including St. Louis University and Northeastern University. And, Amazon now offers a customized version for hotels called Alexa for Hospitality. A blog post outlining the announcement stated:
“Today, we’re excited to announce that device makers building with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) can now create fully integrated solutions, so their products can be registered with Alexa for Business and managed as shared devices in organizations. Alexa for Business customers will soon be able to centrally manage and deploy supported products with Alexa built-in – whether it’s built by Amazon or third-party device makers… Together, the solutions allow for:
- Deployment of third-party devices to shared spaces such as conference rooms, hotel and dorm rooms, lobbies, kitchens, break rooms, and copy rooms
- Device management as part of the device makers’ existing management flow, such as room designation, device health monitoring, and location setting
- Skill management, such as public and private skill assignment for shared devices without publishing to the public Alexa Skills Store
Part of the Alexa Everywhere Strategy and About Customer Choice
This program is clearly related to Amazon’s “Alexa Everywhere” strategy that doesn’t limit Alexa access to Amazon devices. Amazon was quick to license Alexa and even hardware designs to third-party device makers to ensure Alexa was about the voice service more than an Echo speaker. However, that doesn’t mean all features of Alexa devices made by Amazon are also available on third party devices. Amazon has been working to close those feature gaps for consumer devices, but Alexa for Business was a standout because of its added control and management features. Alexa Voice Service, which is the SDK used by device makers to add Alexa, now includes an extension for Alexa for Business features.
The extension promises to open device makers to a broader market of Alexa device installations by businesses in shared spaces. These bulk sales are a strength of some device makers that enable them to leverage existing customer relationships and introduce a branded product that includes Alexa. Plantronics, iHome, and BlackBerry are among the first group of device makers to participate. Linkplay and Extron will presumably offer services to add Alexa for Business functionality to devices for integrated solutions they provide.
Amazon is working hard to make sure Alexa gets out of the home and into public spaces to expand the voice assistant’s reach and also to shape consumer expectations and awareness. Alexa for Business is an innovative program not yet matched by Google or Microsoft and bringing in third party manufacturers will simply multiply the number of companies promoting the solution. At the same time, it will offer business customers a choice of vendors and likely spawn a wider variety of devices than Amazon would have made on its own.