We had often wondered pre-Echo whether there was a chance that Amazon could come out with different voice services. In the years preceding the release of the Echo, Amazon had acquired several companies in the voice space including IVONA, Evi, and Yap. Before Echo’s launch, we had also been working on a service called Ubi Cloud that could couple together many different voice service into a single packaged product and were looking at Amazon as emerging with a potentially competitive offering based in its past acquisitions.
In speculating about potential competition, the immediate scenario that came to mind was that Amazon could offer such a packaged service (and now we know it as Alexa) under the umbrella of Amazon Web Services. It’s been a year and half since AVS was released and there’s still a chance that Amazon could take this approach.
Google has come from the opposite direction. Google’s Android SpeechRecognizer had been available for over five years and since then, Google has released a number of speech tools, including STT, TTS, and NLU Engines (three, if you include API.AI). Houndify offers both STT and NLU separately, or together as a single service. Same with other companies.
Could there be merit in Amazon offering an Alexa STT, NLU, and TTS engine?
From a strategic perspective, it could probably compete on price and take away market share from Google, Nuance, and others. This would prevent these engines from getting as many samples as they currently do.
The downside is that it could erode Alexa as a brand. If Amazon wants to have Alexa as a standalone voice service, allowing others to control how the interaction with the STT or TTS services is handled could lead to poor user experiences.
The way to get around this would be either to change the TTS voice or to rename the service to something non-Alexa. Maybe Amazon Voice Services?
In the end, there is definitely demand by companies to use parts of what Amazon has created with Alexa without the full Alexa Voice Service integration. Is there a way for Amazon to fill this need?