Amazon Opens Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Services to Developers in Saudi Arabia and UAE Ahead of Alexa Launch
Amazon has introduced the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to developers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ahead of plans to debut the voice assistant in both countries later this year. The ASK is in Gulf Arabic, also know as Khaleeji, the version of Arabic spoken in Saudia Arabia and the UAE.
The Alexa Skills Kit is a bundle of tools and programs designed to streamline the creation of Alexa skills for developers. It’s especially aimed at those who may not have much experience with voice apps in particular. The developers don’t need to know how to program a natural language understanding engine; they just have to program how they want Alexa to run the skill. ASK also comes with a bunch of guides and webinars to teach beginners how to get involved. That it’s all in Gulf Arabic should help encourage the rapid growth of an Alexa developer community that Amazon clearly wants to have in place ahead of the official arrival of Alexa in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The same goes for hardware with Alexa inside. That’s what the Alexa Voice Services preview is for. When Alexa comes to the new countries, it will be in not only Amazon Echo devices but others built by LG and Samsung, while devices from Phillips Hue, Xiaomi, and other manufacturers will be able to interface with the Gulf Arabic-speaking version of the voice assistant.
“Skills that developers create now, and are certified for publication, will be available for customers when Alexa launches in KSA and the UAE later this year,” Amazon’s Israa Muezzin explained in the announcement. “Commercial hardware manufacturers who want to develop Alexa Built-in products for customers in KSA or the UAE can request early access to the invite-only Alexa Voice Service (AVS) developer preview.”
Alexa-enabled devices have not been supported in either country until now, with any Echo used there requiring access to to the U.S. or UK system to operate. Amazon had sent out emails to potential developers in the UAE in April about bringing Alexa to that country. The letter was a more general discussion of testing Alexa features, however, so it might have also been about trying to localize information and other methods of incorporating Alexa Voice Service (AVS). AVS has been on a streak of expansion into new countries all over the world, most recently in Belgium and Switzerland after bringing AVS to Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru in April, Poland and Sweden in March, and Colombia and the Netherlands at the end of 2020. ASK appearing ahead of Alexa in two new countries is a shift away from the AVS-only approach in those other countries, but it does fit with the strategy of building a developer community as quickly as possible, the language may have just been a necessity despite it possibly slowing the launch of Alexa in both countries.