Amazon’s Alexa Won’t Be Great Until It Gets This Feature – Forbes

If Amazon’s Alexa was the finished product, I’d write it off.

I couldn’t honestly recommend a virtual assistant that can’t even tell me how much protein is in two eggs. Or a device that can’t separate out items on a shopping list that I’ve just dictated.

But it’s not the finished product and Amazon is building more functionality for it. The recent ability to ask follow up questions is a good example of Amazon catching up to its rivals like Google Home.

But if Amazon wants to make Alexa genuinely, objectively, ‘great’ then it needs to let third party developers monetise the Skills they build for it.

As it stands, there’s no incentive for skilled developers to build top-quality Skills for Alexa because they can’t really make money from it. Yes, they could strike an advertising deal on their own and have Alexa read out the sponsor’s name when a user opens the skill, but that requires knowing the right people and having a significant user-base already in place. An ad platform makes that process a lot easier. Or, even easier than that, a non-freemium model (shocking, I know) where developers can charge upfront for Skills.

Amazon's Alexa Vs. Google Assistant. Head-to-head. Image credit: Jay McGregor

Amazon’s Alexa Vs. Google Assistant. Head-to-head. Image credit: Jay McGregor

There are, of course, challenges to implementing ads in a voice-only service. There is a lot less real-estate available for ads (in comparison to a display) and voice ads can significantly detract from the experience, which all means less ad-money for Amazon and the developer. With that said, it’s not impossible. Plenty of podcasts play a brief sponsor jingle before the content starts, which would work just as well when users open up a Skill. 

The lack of incentive – outside of creative curiosity – should be a concern for Amazon because the current state of the Skill store is frankly dire. There is a good core group of Skills, the majority of which are featured when you open the store. Most, however, are gimmicky, mildly amusing one-use throwaways. And considering how long Alexa has been out, that’s not really acceptable.

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