Siri is available on iOS devices such as the iPhone, and the voice-activated Google Assistant is also supported on smartphones and tablets. Amazon clearly doesn’t want to be left behind in the race to make voice-activated digital assistants ubiquitous on mobile, which is why it’s now opening up the Alexa Mobile Accessory (AMA) Kit to developers and manufacturers.
“The AMA protocol is the key technology that powers on-the-go Alexa experiences on headphones, headsets, and other Bluetooth (BT) devices,” is how Amazon’s developer blogdescribes the new platform. “With Alexa integrated into their BT device, customers can enjoy convenient access to their favorite Alexa features and capabilities on the go: music, news and information, smart home controls, and tens of thousands of Alexa Skills.”
The AMA protocol is supported on both iOS and Android, as well as a variety of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices. It requires that users download and install Amazon’s Alexa app on their devices, of course, and spares manufacturers from a lot of custom development work if they want their devices to support Alexa.
Amazon has extensive documentation, including a diagram of how AMA Kit components interact with one another, available on its developer website.
Amazon has worked hard over the past year to build a robust developer ecosystem around Alexa, which is integrated into an ever-expanding number of devices. As with so many things, a lot of that encouragement comes down to money: Amazon has given developers the ability to monetize various features within Alexa “Skills,” including games, interactive stories, and exclusive content. The company also pays out for user engagement with developers’ products.
Meanwhile, Amazon is locked in fierce competition with Google and Apple for digital-assistant domination. All three competitors have certain advantages—Apple’s iOS devices are immensely popular, and Google has made a concerted effort to introduce its Google Home device into as many households as possible. But in order for one to “win,” it will need to offer as much utility to users as possible—and that’s where third-party developers come in.