Picture a hypothetical future in which Amazon’s Alexa renders your smartphone unnecessary.
You tap the “good morning” button on your bedside Echo Spot, and it displays the day’s forecast as the blinds open and the bedroom lights fade on. Downstairs, the Echo Show in the kitchen displays a reminder about your doctor’s appointment at noon, and alerts you to a single urgent email: You’ll have to join a conference call as soon as you get into the office.
In the car, you press the “commute” button on the Alexa-enabled dashboard, which queues up your favorite music while steering you around a traffic jam, and after work, Alexa relays another reminder to your car, telling you to grab milk on the way back. At home, you swipe through a list of restaurants on the Echo Show to make a reservation for the weekend, check in on your folks via video chat, and finally sit down to relax. With one more button press, the next episode of your favorite show starts playing on the Fire TV in the living room.
Far-fetched as it seems, this is the kind of scenario Amazon wants to create as its Alexa assistant migrates from smart speakers to touch screens. Instead of making users wade through a sea of apps to get things done, the goal is to create a new kind of computing that’s simpler and less distracting. And while voice will be the foundation, there may be plenty of times where you use Alexa without speaking at all.
“The tenet that we believe in is that voice is a simplifier,” says Miriam Daniel, Amazon’s head of product management for Alexa. “And once you design voice actions, then go back to a touch action, you’ve actually removed a lot of friction because you’ve started at a different baseline.”
If Amazon is successful, Alexa could siphon precious time and attention away from smartphones, in the same way that smartphones have made the PC less relevant over the past decade. But even Amazon acknowledges that it still has a lot of work to do as it tries to invent a new computing paradigm.