Read through Amazon’s latest Q2 earnings statement and one name stands out – Alexa.
The online giant’s voice assistant is mentioned 31 times and it’s becoming clear just how much she is helping to drive growth at Amazon, in particular for music.
Profits hit a record $2.53 billion (£1.9bn) in the three months to June, while revenue increased by 39% to $52.89bn (£40.4bn).
Echo and Alexa recently launched in France and Echo Spot was launched in India and Japan in the last quarter. The range proved popular on Amazon Prime Day (July 16), the annual sale for Prime members which this year resulted in more new sign-ups than "any other previous day in Amazon history".
That's important for the biz at a time when voice control is key to continued streaming growth, because all those new members may well be tempted by their discounted option on a £7.99 Unlimited monthly membership.
During the earnings call, director of investor relations Dave Fildes said music and voice control was “one of the most popular features” for Alexa.
“When you look at the Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, it continues to grow very quickly,” he added.
Music Week reported this week on Amazon’s ambitions to help the industry break more acts with Alexa voice commands and playlists. While Alexa is an open-source AI used by rival streaming platforms, Amazon actively encourages Echo owners to sign up to its own music platform for a voice experience that’s “as frictionless and fun as possible”, according to product manager Ivy Taylor.
Amazon has now introduced Alexa Cast, which allows listeners to play music and control playback on Alexa-enabled devices from the mobile app. It enables users to move a playlist they were listening to on the move to an Echo device, as well as making it simpler to switch between listening on different speakers.
It’s a refinement to Apple’s streaming service that brings it into line with Google Cast, Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay. Amazon’s Cast functionality is not yet available for third-party music apps such as Spotify to connect to an Alexa Echo.
Apple also reported that the Alexa Skills store now has more than 45,000 skills created by developers, which open up all kinds of voice functionality from games to news and radio. Alexa can now control more than 13,000 smart home devices.