So this year Amazon have not showcased any new products or even any enhancements to their current product lineup. Therefore you would expect Amazon to be overshadowed at CES. Far from it, Amazon has had no need to announce any products as everybody else appears to be announcing Amazon tie-ins instead.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights.
Ford have announced that starting this summer, drivers that use Ford Sync 3 will have the ability to interact with Alexa. Some of these interactions include searching for local destinations (with the destination transferred to the navigation system), the ability to request an audio book or music, work with shopping lists etc. The interaction does not simply stop at in-car actions. Sync also allows you to interact with any smart home devices, for example, you could ask for the garage doors to open or maybe the kettle to turn on when you are close to home.
There are a couple of features that I find questionable, drivers will have the ability to unlock the doors, start the engine (as well as obtaining metrics from the vehicle). Having the ability to unlock the doors and start the engine could be a thieves paradise, why steal the keys when you can access the car simply with your voice. Hopefully, Ford has thought of this and has put it measures to protect users.
Not to be outdone by Ford, Volkswagen has also announced Alexa integration albeit in a much lower key manner. The Amazon blog talks of similar integration and abilities that Ford will be introducing. Volkswagen has not fully announced a release advising more information to be released later in the year. I expect this sort of integration will become standard within a couple of years.
Smart refrigerators have been teasing onto the market for a long time. LG are now taking this 1 step further. By integrating Alexa some of their Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerators will have voice capabilities. The new functionality will enable the user to search for recipes and add any required ingredients to their shopping list. Of course, there would be little point in doing so if you couldn't just purchase directly from Amazon as well ;).
As usual, as Alexa is involved the user would also be able to control smart home products. For most Echo users this might not be of great benefit but it does open the market massively for those that have no interest in the Echo or Dot.
Check out the official press statement from LG.
So far we have Apple's Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana in the mobile assistant market. Huawei has announced that rather than rely on Google Assistant with their Android powered Mate 9 they are going to preload an app enabling Amazon's Alexa service. The app will not be available at launch however and will be installed by default with a future update to the firmware. This will make the Mate 9 the first smartphone with Alexa integration.
Dish have announced that they are creating a skill that will enable people to control their viewing with simple commands. Although, as opposed to other announcements mentioned this is potentially important for another reason. I know personally (and have seen from others online) that there is some frustration with the lack of support to do such actions on the Amazon Fire TV. This will hopefully push Amazon in either releasing a new echo with such features (which potentially could work offline) or release a similar skill (which would of course only work online).
Lenovo's announcement I find quite intriguing. Not content with announcing a device that has a skill for the Echo, or maybe a device that integrates with Alexa, Lenovo have announced that they are going into direct competition with Amazon with their own Smart Assistant. Lenovo's Smart Assistant is similar to that of the Amazon Echo and also features Alexa at its core.
Although this may sound like bad news for Amazon in that it now has another competitor for the Home Assistant market along with Google it can actually give great benefits. As the 2 devices share the same platform the real differentiator will be the hardware. The further Amazon pushes the harder Lenovo will try to keep up and overtake and vice versa.
As mentioned Amazon certainly stole the show at CES this year. Although no direct hardware has been announced, the hardware that has announced integration with Alexa can only help push the boundaries and possibilities that the Alexa service can provide. With so many large partners Alexa will be pushed to its limits and customers will be left wanting more. Amazon will have to respond and further improve the functionality of Alexa and improve the voice recognition (although it is very good at the moment). This will only help improve the experience that you or I have with the Amazon products.
Amazon has also won some important battles. Ford and Volkswagen could have easily chosen Microsoft's Cortana or Google Voice or Assistant services, Lenovo could have easily chosen Google Voice services. But each chose Amazon. What is even more surprising is the potential bloody nose that Google have suffered at the hands of Amazon with the Huawei Mate 9.
For any skill developers, this news also gives us more to think about and to play with. So many possibilities are opening up and now is a great time to be on the bandwagon.