Alexa wants to join your workforce

Amazon is heading into the business sector with Alexa, heating up the competition with cloud-computing rival, Microsoft.
23 March 2018

I t seems that Alexa isn’t satisfied being a stay-at-home voice assistant- now it wants to pick up a briefcase and join the office.

Thus far, Amazon’s device has been primarily marketed for consumers, mostly covering entertainment, communication, and simple tasks such as controlling smart-home devices.

But moving away from the consumer market, Amazon launched Alexa for Business in November last year, with aims of bringing the digital assistant into the office space. On Monday, the e-commerce and cloud computing company announced that Alexa was now ready for business use.

Within the office domain, Alexa is being utilized to carry out functions such as controlling the room temperature, dimming lights, booking out a meeting room and reporting technical issues.

But perhaps one of the most popular uses of Alexa in the office environment is the ability to manage conference calls- arguably the bane of office technology. Instead of frantically searching for call-in numbers and getting everyone on the line, the simple phrase of “Alexa, start my meeting” will begin the call automatically.

“It’s usually a struggle to find the dial-in information, punch in the numbers, and enter a passcode every time a meeting starts,” said Werner Vogels, Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer, in a blog post. By integrating the assistant with users’ calendars, Alexa could start a call with a simple voice command, he added.

As well as this, Amazon has been working with developers to adapt business applications to the voice-controlled device, such as Salesforce and Concur.

It seems these steps towards becoming a broad business technology company is heating up the competition between Amazon and its main rival in the cloud computing market, Microsoft.

Last year, the two company’s announced an alliance, linking Amazon’s Alexa with Microsoft’s Cortana. Though yet to roll out, the plan is for Alexa and Cortana to defer to the other when their specific, unique skills are required.

However despite this alliance, it seems that Amazon is stomping all over Microsoft’s domain. Furthermore, critics have described the partnership between the two assistants as one-way. According to some, Alexa users are unlikely to use the Amazon voice service to call on Cortana seeing as the Microsoft assistant carries out far fewer tasks.

It is clear, though, that Alexa’s entrance into the office will streamline many tedious work processes, becoming a vital office tool for many.

Although… the device has been known to cause some unwanted intrusions, with some users reporting hearing some unprompted cackling from the smart speaker.

Will Alexa become a model employee? Only time will tell.