With Alexa, its digital [virtual] assistant, Amazon has ushered in the third computing platform. The first, personal computers, was dominated by Microsoft while Apple and Google have dominated the second, smartphones. While the interface with personal computers is characterized by a keyboard and mouse, and the interface with smartphones is defined by touchscreens, your voice is the control mechanism on this new platform.
The Smart Home
This third platform is the key to long envisioned smart homes. Utilizing your voice to manage lighting & energy, receiving news & information, for monitoring & security, and for entertainment is much more practical than doing so with a keyboard, a mouse, or even a touchscreen.
The Alexa family consists of the Echo – I was among the first group to request and receive one, way back in November 2014, significantly before its wider release – the Dot, and the Tap. My current family of devices consists of the Echo, three Dots, and one Tap.
Alexa in the Home
The Echo resides in the dining room area, available when we are in the kitchen or living room. It serves as a timer when cooking, to manage our shopping list, to provide news, to control living room lights, and to play music from our playlists and the Amazon library.
One Dot is in our bedroom, where it primarily serves as an alarm clock, to provide news and weather, and to manage the bedroom lights. A second Dot is in the foyer where its primary purpose is to control lighting in that area. The third Dot sits in the guest bedroom, available as an alarm clock; and as a music, news and information source for guests. The Tap normally sits in its cradle on my work desk, but often finds itself outside as my music source while doing yard work or enjoying my morning coffee.
Amazon Tap, Echo, and Dot [first generation]
Amazon Dot [second generation]
An Investment Opportunity?
The arrival and growth of this third platform might also provide investment opportunities not only in companies like Amazon, but also in those building devices to work with Alexa enabled devices – the TP-Link Smart Plugs I use as one example – or rushing to enable their products to work with Alexa; Ford’s recent announcement of the integration of Alexa in its navigation system is a great example. If you like to invest in individual stocks, it might be worth your time to consider and research.
Of course Google, Apple, and Microsoft are not sitting idly by as they each push their own vision digital assistants and smart homes with Home (two have found their way into our home), Siri (and the HomeKit platform), and Cortana respectively. However, Amazon has taken an enviable lead in the race to dominate the third computing platform and manage the home.