Amazon's Gem: Alexa
Amazon saw record profit in its second quarter, but just missed Wall Street forecasts. But the biggest news of the quarter—Alexa is spreading.
Amazon's net sales increased 39% to $52.9 billion in its second quarter 2018, compared with $38.0 billion in second quarter 2017. The e-commerce giant also posted net income of $2.5 billion in the second quarter — a quarterly record for the company, and a nearly 13-fold increase from the year-earlier period, according to Variety, but sales came in shy of analyst expectations.
Amazon's Alexa had some moves this quarter though. The voice-activated virtual assistant is available for more products now, via the Alexa Voice Service, including soundbars from Polk and Sonos; headphones from Jabra; smart home devices from ecobee and First Alert; Windows 10 PCs from Acer, HP, and Lenovo; and select vehicles from BMW, Ford, and Toyota.
“We want customers to be able to use Alexa wherever they are,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “There are now tens of thousands of developers across more than 150 countries building new devices using the Alexa Voice Service, and the number of Alexa-enabled devices has more than tripled in the past year. Our partners are creating a wide variety of new Alexa-enabled devices and experiences."
(For more on Alexa and Amazon see our interactive July feature, "Amazon Vs. Walmart: Who Wins in the Battle of the Behemoths?")
Alexa highlights from the quarter:
- Amazon added new Alexa capabilities, including calendaring features, such as the ability to move meetings via voice; new information on current events; Remember This, a new feature which enables Alexa to remember important information such as birthdays; new ways to navigate and control video content with Alexa, including integrations with TiVo, Dish, Netflix, and DirecTV; and new ways for the blind and visually impaired community to interact with Alexa with the launch of Tap to Alexa and global expansion of Alexa Captioning.
- Amazon announced Alexa for Hospitality, which brings the convenience of Alexa to hotels, vacation rentals, and other hospitality locations. Offered by invitation, Alexa for Hospitality lets hoteliers create new voice-first experiences so guests can ask Alexa for hotel information, play music in their room, request guest services, and more.
- Amazon announced the Fire TV Cube, a 4K Ultra HD streaming media player with Alexa that allows customers to control the TV with their voice.
- Amazon announced Show Mode and the Show Mode Charging Dock for Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets. Show Mode offers a hands-free Alexa experience with full screen visual responses.
- Amazon launched Echo and Alexa in France, offering an all-new Alexa experience built from the ground up for French customers. Additionally, Echo Spot launched in India and Japan, allowing customers to experience Alexa with a screen. Amazon also announced that Echo and Alexa are coming to Italy, Mexico, and Spain later this year.
- The Alexa Skills store now offers more than 45,000 skills created by third-party developers. Additionally, customers can now use Alexa to control more than 13,000 smart home devices from over 2,500 unique brands.
- Amazon introduced new machine learning tools for developers to make Alexa skills even more engaging and discoverable, including a feature that allows U.S. customers to launch skills using more natural phrases and requests; the ability for developers to turn text into lifelike speech using Amazon Polly, for free; and the release of the software development kit for Python that allows developers to more easily build Alexa skills. Amazon also expanded the ability for developers to earn money or sell goods and services through their Alexa skills using in-skill purchasing or Amazon Pay.
- The fourth annual Prime Day was Amazon’s biggest global shopping event ever, welcoming more new Prime members on July 16th than any other previous day in Amazon history. Members purchased more than 100 million products, and the best-selling items worldwide were the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Dot.