Amazon Forms Coalition for Voice Assistant Interoperability

Amazon created the Voice Interoperability Initiative to achieve software compatibility among digital voice assistants, encouraging its widespread adoption. Although 36 companies have joined the initiative, Apple and Google have not. Their absence is a significant impediment to the initiative’s goals, since Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant software are installed by default in most of today’s smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, has no presence on smartphones, although its Echo speakers are a hit with consumers.

Bloomberg reports that Amazon “is the leader in voice software for the home,” with Canalys stating that Echo devices account for 25.4 percent of speaker shipments worldwide in Q2 2019. Other home appliance manufacturers also link to Alexa, giving it a broader reach. But, said analysts, Alexa’s “small presence on mobile devices … could threaten its long-term future.”

Android phone users can make Alexa the default assistant, but not those on iPhones. Amazon senior vice president of devices Dave Limp noted that “there’s not going to be one winner” when it comes to smart assistants.

Among the initiative’s goals are to enable users “to summon multiple digital assistants from a single device, a concept that already links Amazon’s Alexa with Microsoft’s Cortana workplace-focused assistant.” Baidu, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Salesforce, Sonos, Sony and Spotify Technology are among the 36 companies that have joined the coalition.

A Google spokesperson revealed that it’s still reviewing the idea. “But in general we’re always interested in participating in efforts that have the broad support of the ecosystem and uphold strong privacy and security practices,” added the spokesperson. Apple had no comment.

Creative Strategies technology analyst Carolina Milanesi said Amazon has made a smart move, since giving the consumer the option of using different assistant will give the company “a better chance to get picked for those tasks that matter to Amazon.”

The initiative’s members stated their priorities as “developing voice services that work seamlessly with others, building devices that can be activated by multiple wake words, developing technology that makes it easier to embed multiple voice assistants on a single device and accelerating research into conversational artificial intelligence to improve such software’s ability to work together.”