Developers Split on Digital Assistants Like Siri & Alexa

Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are taking over our day-to-day existence. At just about every turn, platform providers such as Apple and Google are asking us to talk to a bot. But are developers as excited as these companies about the future of voice-first assistants?

Earlier this year, we asked our tech pro audience how they felt about voice-first digital assistants. Some 11 percent of respondents say they’re not interested in seeing how Alexa or Siri might fit into their own apps and services. This could be indicative of a class of developers and engineers who responded; it’s hard to see how the Google Assistant would be useful in an IT stack, for instance.

Around 19 percent report they find voice-first digital assistants interesting, and possibly even useful, but can’t see a use-case for implementing them inside their own apps or services; 26 percent say they just don’t want to implement them, even though they’re interesting and useful.

Forty-four percent of respondents say they’re already working with assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and maybe even Cortana. This can range from building Alexa skills down to allowing Siri to spin up actions within an app, or via HomePod.

When we exclude the 11 percent who just don’t care about digital assistants, an interesting storyline emerges. The remaining 89 percent of respondents are essentially split on using digital assistants for their apps or services. We can cobble together those who are interested but not committed, as well as those who don’t see why they should implement assistants in their apps and services, into a larger group of ‘undecided developers.’ This group makes up 45 percent of respondents.

That is almost a direct juxtaposition to the 44 percent who are already working with digital assistants. It underscores a divide; if companies can only convince half of the ‘eligible’ pool of tech pros (remember, we’re excluding the 11 percent who just don’t care) to use voice-first digital assistants, how truly successful are they?

More to the point, how successful can they potentially become? Alexa, inarguably the most ubiquitous digital assistant around, has glaring issues with its developer outreach. For example, Amazon refuses to state clearly and concisely what Alexa Skills pay. Apple sidestepped this issue by making Siri Shortcuts additive to the iOS experience; the app is monetized, not Siri.

(Google, meanwhile, prioritizes its AAssistant for web searches and menial tasks such as setting timers. There’s an SDK for developers, but it’s a light touch on true dynamism for voice-first digital assistants.)

Developers are either enthusiastic about digital assistants, or not sure how or why they should implement them into their existing apps and services… and that’s a big problem for tech companies. As we enter the Spring surge of tech conferences, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft continue to frame their respective digital assistants for developers.