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Amazon just dropped a huge hint that Alexa is about to get even smarter.

Mark C. Webster
Nov 16, 2016 · 3 min read

The foundation of Amazon Alexa’s “intelligence” is the individual apps, called Skills, that a user can enable to enhance the functionality of the service. Anyone can build a Skill and (once approved) offer it all users of Alexa-powered devices like the Amazon Echo. Skills allow Alexa to do all sorts of things, from ordering an Uber or a Domino’s pizza to controlling your smart home.

Discovery of new Skills has always been a challenge. In order to find and enable a Skill, users had to go in to the rarely-used Alexa mobile app, browse or search through Skills, then click Enable to add the ones they want.

Amazon made things a bit easier a few months ago by letting you just tell Alexa to “Enable {Skillname}” which helps enable a Skill you know about, but it still didn’t help discover new ones. Worse, there was no way for non-users to browse Skills and see what Alexa could do before deciding to buy.

Pages for Skills are now on Amazon.com

Amazon just launched product pages for all Alexa Skills on Amazon.com. Now anyone can learn about a Skill, and companies can promote or link to their specific Skill. This is a big step towards helping users learn how to extend their Alexa experience with Skills.

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Skills now have their own section on Amazon.com

Great, but where’s the $$$?

One criticism Amazon has received about Skills is there’s no paid option. You can’t charge users for a Skill the way you can a mobile app. Even with the current popularity of Alexa, without a way to monetize Skills, there has been a major economic incentive missing for companies and developers. But it looks like that is about to change.

With the launch of details pages, there is one small detail worth paying attention to.

Located under the Skill name is red text stating “Free to Enable.

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All Skills are free. For now.

If you take a look at the HTML, it uses the same CSS styling that prices use on standard Amazon product pages. With every Skill now having an product page, each of those pages already designed for displaying prices, and a developer community that’s been asking for the option to monetize Skills since Day 1, it seems likely this is about to finally happen.

Welcoming the Alexa Skill Gold Rush

With paid Skills likely on their way, watch for companies and developers to devote even more resources towards Amazon Alexa.

The initial space to watch will be voice-based games. Given Echo’s popularity with kids and parent’s desire to limit screen time, I suspect educational entertainment publishers like Disney and Leapfrog will release some of the first successful paid Skills.

With the recent launch of Google Home, and an upcoming SDK scheduled for next month, the competitive pressure to court developers is starting to build. Launching paid Skills would be a great way for Amazon to continue to keep Alexa ahead of the pack.

Want to design and prototype interactive voice applications, with no coding required? Get started now at Sayspring.com.

VUI Magazine

Voice UI / UX, Design, Prototyping, Development, Amazon…

Mark C. Webster

Written by

Voice UI/UX Design, Product, Developer. Founder of @Sayspring (now part of Adobe). Editor of VUI-magazine.com. Prev: Co-founded SideTour (Acq'd by @Groupon).

VUI Magazine

Voice UI / UX, Design, Prototyping, Development, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Voice Assistants, and more.

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