After launching the Alexa Skill Blueprints program last year, which made it easy to create voice-powered skills for Echo devices, Amazon has now thrown the doors wide open. The e-tailer and tech giant announced Wednesday that anyone can add their custom Alexa skills to the skills store as well.
In other words, an onslaught of new voice features may be about to storm Echo devices across the U.S.
“We are excited to announce that now anyone can create and publish an Alexa skill in minutes, with no coding required, using Alexa Skill Blueprints,” wrote Brian Crum, senior product manager at Amazon, in the company’s developer blog. He goes on to explain that the dozens of blueprints available function like templates, with would-be skills creators simply “filling in the blanks.”
With that, it’s incredibly simple for content creators, anyone from influencers to large companies, to make a skill. Now, the software includes a setting that can submit the skill to the store, so the public has access to it. The setting is not a direct publishing tool, as Amazon still has to review and accept submissions.
Altogether, this looks like another significant step forward for Alexa.
Anyone who has been following the launch and rise of app stores knows that third-party apps are critical to platform ecosystems, as users flock to environments with robust features and a healthy selection of apps. Think iOS or Android.
But those that don’t tend to suffer. The doomed mobile ambitions of Palm, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile are sobering, cautionary tales for the tech industry. For Amazon, it need only look at its own experience. Its lackluster Fire mobile devices, which operate on a variation of Android, relies on Amazon’s own app store — whose size and selection simply can’t compete with Google Play, Android’s official app resource.
Amazon appears to be applying those lessons to its voice platform. If skills are the Alexa equivalent of apps, then the store — bustling with 80,000-plus entries — might soon be bursting at the seams with user-generated skills.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s Eero acquisition also looks ripe for this growing ecosystem. The company could bring Wi-Fi networking features to Echo devices, bring some Alexa powers to Eero’s existing Wi-Fi products or some combination.
All of this effort sets up the next generation of Echo products and Alexa updates as potentially major upgrades. And, as it ventures further into Google’s area of expertise, those moves may also frame the rivalry with its top voice competitor as an all-out war.