The short answer is, I’m on the bandwagon and it’s great! There’s plenty of room up here so come aboard!
Recently, Jim Wikert of Digital Book World wrote why he’s not ready to climb on yet. I don’t mean to single him out, but I think he brings up a good discussion point. Plus, I have a lot of friends who have the same opinion. Of course most of those people have never used an Amazon Echo. Even when I first started using an Echo, I thought it was mostly a glorified music player.
It seems to me that Wikert isn’t actually against the Amazon Echo, it just doesn’t fit into his lifestyle because he spends a lot of time in his car. That’s understandable. I work from home where I’m mostly alone. I rarely spend much more than 15-20 minutes in my car for the whole day… different things for different people.
Wikert continues to explain an Echo that would be useful to him. First he explains that like stand-alone GPS and fitness bracelets, they’ll be replaced by his phone. I don’t buy into his argument. Fitness bracelets and smart watches perform better than phones and have additional features in them to improve the experience. It’s almost like saying that I don’t need a microwave because I have a oven.
However, to bring this back to Amazon Echo, the key feature is the always-listening, no hands use. I don’t know when phone batteries will get there. I don’t know IF they’ll ever get there. There’s a reason why the Amazon Tap requires you press a button despite having a big battery and no screen.
That said, in a car environment that Wikert describes, there is power. It isn’t that hard to imagine an Echo Dot working in the car. That might be useful because of the microphone. It can connect via bluetooth to his car speakers and use his phone as a mobile wifi hotspot. This wouldn’t cost the $5 per month that Wikert is willing to pay, but probably a one-time cost of around $120 (including a D/C adapter). Yes it wouldn’t be mobile, but it would cover what seems to be his most common use case.
Now if you just want your phone to do it, there is an Alexa App. It is more about reporting what your hardware has already done than being a bridge to the Alexa service itself. However, it wouldn’t be overly difficult for Amazon to make that happen.
The question then becomes: “Isn’t that just what Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri are?” I’m going to give Amazon Alexa the edge because it isn’t just an information service and it has demonstrated the ability to work with third parties. It’s “work” to get Google Now to work with Nest, a company in its same Alphabet umbrella. I don’t have confidence that Apple is going to open up their ecosystem to companies that compete with them like Pandora and Spotify. (Maybe I’m off-base here, I’m not in the Apple ecosystem.)
At the end of the day, I want all the things that Wikert wants (especially the dictation ability). I think we’ll get there, but let’s take a step back. Not much more than a year ago, the Amazon Echo was kind of a goofy device that didn’t do much more than play music. It didn’t turn on your lights, order you an Uber, or a pizza. It couldn’t change the temperature in my home. It couldn’t play Jeopardy. It can do all these now. (Okay the Nest functionality is coming this month.)
Let’s enjoy all the things we can do, especially when they are free of monthly fees.