Alexa versus SIri
I’ve been riding my bike to the office when I can, weather permitting. It’s invigorating to start the day with an elevated heart rate, a lungful of fresh air and a beautiful view of the Olympic mountain range.
Sometimes, especially on a Friday, I like to put on some music to kick things up a notch. My go-to is the Foo Fighters but sometimes I listen to KEXP if I need some new music or inspiration. I use my “old fashioned” headphones with the remote just down the wire below the right earbud. What I really *want* to do is press the button, which activates Siri, and have her play me music from my Spotify Foo Fighters playlist. What *actually* happens, is Siri can’t find any music from the Foo Fighters because I have them on Spotify not iTunes (i.e. not in the Apple music ecosystem). Don’t even try to ask Siri to start up the KEXP streaming app.
This creates a negative narrative between me and my Apple phone. My problem: wanting to play music while my hands are on my handlebars remains unresolved. As a product guy, I'm even more frustrated with Apple because they created a name for itself by solving problems-- not even solving them, but blowing them out of the water. And the frustration slowly builds to a point where I start actively seeking options....
So along comes this new girl named Alexa. We brought her home this holiday season, along with 11 million others. Yes she’s kind of a stalker-- always listening... silently listening with her blue light. And I fear she is collecting our family chatter, waiting to use it to cleverly sell products to us. But DAMMIT she works.
Let's break it down
Here’s a comparison of some simple commands, Siri versus Alexa:
“Play Foo Fighters”
Siri: I couldn’t find Foo Fighters in your music, Todd. (“Siri, it’s in Spotify”) Siri starts playing a Podcast. [Thanks, Siri.]
Alexa: Playing songs by Foo Fighters from Spotify.
[Alexa for the win]
“How do I get to Reuben’s Brewery”
Siri: I could not find any places matching Reubens Brewery.
Alexa: The fastest route to Rueben’s Brews is about 10 minutes by taking…. (detail directions follow, then Foo Fighters come back on)
[Obviously Alexa for the win]
“How did the Mariners do yesterday”
Siri: The Mariners sailed to victory against the Rockies yesterday. The final score was 10 to 4.
Alexa: Last night the Mariners beat the Rockies 10-4.
[Okay we’ll give this one to Siri for style points. The important thing here is the Mariners won.]
Here’s a major strategy departure between Apple and Amazon. Apple still values a closed system model, where they make it much easier to access media within iTunes, thereby (theoretically) keeping their customers inside the ecosystem.
And Amazon doesn’t really care who you buy music from. Sure they will offer Amazon music services if you don’t have Pandora or Spotify already (by the way Spotify has 50 million paid subscribers). But mainly they just want Alexa to be so useful you will be incredibly happy and find more and more ways to use the device. Then tell friends. I bought one for my mom, and my wife’s parents this Christmas. They LOOOOVE it. My wife’s parents in particular, are way deep with Alexa. They are super users. They ask her to tell jokes, weather and relay headline news. My father in law mentioned that he kind of missed Alexa when he was on vacation recently. We’re talking baby boomer tech adoption here people. If that's not a golden egg I don't know what is. No wonder the stock just breached $1,000 per share.
Do you think Amazon is working on ways to access Alexa from your mobile, car, bike, bus, plane, camel, hot air balloon? The answer is yes. Yes they are.
And sadly, even though I have been an Apple fanboy all my adult life, I will gladly take the opportunity to let Alexa take full control of my phone’s voice commands when given the chance to do so.