🔗 After five years of Amazon’s Alexa, why isn’t it better?

🔗 After five years of Amazon’s Alexa, why isn’t it better?
Photo by Lazar Gugleta / Unsplash

I couldn’t agree more with James Vincent’s piece here and describing Alexa and its accompanying Skill Store as “a mile wide and an inch deep” is perhaps the best description that matches my experience with Alexa as a platform.

It’s not that Alexa isn’t useful, it’s just that the deluge approach to Skills isn’t necessarily going to change user behaviour enough for Echo devices to become staples of the home. The tasks that these devices are good at (playing music, setting timers, weather) become worth the tradeoff of privacy concerns for users.

How I think Amazon managed to corner the smart speaker market is with a low-priced offering. The company made it cheap enough for those curious to try Alexa, mitigating the concern of it potentially being a waste of money, and if it could nail the use cases I just mentioned then it was probably going to end up being worth the price.

Beyond that, though, the Skills Store is a ghost town of neglected offerings which is partly why I prefer Siri as a platform, despite its limitations. It puts users in control of their own voice assistant, allowing them to create their own actions (or Shortcuts, to use Apple parlance) making Siri a more personal personal assistant.

It’s definitely not perfect and its limitations are well noted but contrasting the limited use cases of Alexa with the user extensibility of Siri, I much prefer the latter.