Amazon announced Thursday, Feb. 23, that the number of Amazon Echo skills has reached 10,000, which comes just a year and a half after the retail company released its Alexa voice assistant to developers, enabling them to craft their own spin on skills.
With that Kit, Alexa and the hardware it’s available in — Echo, Dot, Tap, and dozens more from third-parties — became something more significant than spawns of smart speaker tech: they became a whole intelligent platform, with a whole plethora of skills that make them seem like perfect smart home companions — they can dim lights, lower temperature levels, open garage doors, and more, provided owners have the respective gadgetry.
Alexa Skills Reach 10,000 Mark
Now, with 10,000 skills readily available, a steep uptick from the previous number since last summer, as noted by Wired, one question arises: is the amazon Echo, all its skills considered, a compelling purchase?
Gizmodo’s Michael Nunez thinks not. He says that after a year or more of waiting for more useful skills to land on Echo, he has finally come to the conclusion that he, like a number of Echo owners, only use two to three different skills, which usually involve asking it for the weather in the morning, setting an alarm, or sometimes playing music.
Echo Isn’t Meant To Accomplish Complicated Tasks
“That’s it. I could easily get by with a bluetooth speaker and a smartphone,” Nunez wrote. Additionally, he says that from using Echo’s myriad of skills, what he’s learned is that important tasks can’t really be accomplished with the smart speaker, suggesting that any activity which requires attention to detail is outside the Echo’s playing field.
“For example, if I ask my Echo for my calendar events, and I happen to space out in the middle, there’s no easy way for me to go back or review an event. On my phone, I could easily scroll back to the date.”
Do You Need An Amazon Echo Right Now?
So, do you need an Echo? Need, here, stands in for a lot of synonyms — essentially it means that, without Echo, will your productivity levels drastically wane? With it, will your productivity levels improve? By how much? Is it dramatic enough to warrant a purchase?
Of course, each one has specific needs. You might not have your own smart home devices while another person does, which means the need is comparably less for you.
Also, 10,000 skills, while an impressive number, most likely includes crapshoots here and there. Less useful, although amusing skills run the gamut of Alexa skills. Case in point: Naughty Talk, in which Alexa talks dirty; Snow Facts, which is pretty self-explanatory; Elf Name Generator, which bestows upon you your own Elf moniker, and many similar to these. But that happens everywhere, even in the ultra successful App Store.
Amazon Echo Skills Clutter
“We know what happened when Apple opened up the App Store and developers started pouring applications in there,” says James McQuivey, an analyst from Forrester Research, as reported by Wired. “Suddenly it became really, really hard for developers to get in front of their intended customers. There became this big problem of clutter.”
This means that developers will have less and less chances of heralding their skills to owners. But Amazon takes steps to combat the clutter. It sends Alexa users on a weekly basis a list of recently added skills. It also opened a skills store online recently, which includes ratings and user reviews — definitely better curated than the previous one, which was just a simple, uninspired list.
Of course, while a cleaner, more streamlined cache is important, it introduces the screen back to an otherwise voice-first ecosystem.
“We’re working on ways with your voice to better navigate the skills that are there,” says Steve Rabuchin, head of Alexa voice services and skills at Amazon. “You’re able to ask Alexa what the top skills of the week are, what the new skills are, a whole bunch of categories just by voice.”
All told, Nunez isn’t ridding himself of the Echo.
“I still enjoy yelling at it for the news and weather,” although he has given up hope on the newer skills.
Tell us your experiences with Amazon Echo skills in the comments section below!
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