Amazon’s Alexa voice platform has now passed 15,000 skills — the voice-powered apps that run on devices like the Echo speaker, Echo Dot, newer Echo Show and others. The figure is up from the 10,000 skills Amazon officially announced back in February, which had then represented a 3x increase from September.
The new 15,000 figure was first reported via third-party analysis from Voicebot, and Amazon has now confirmed to TechCrunch that the number is accurate.
According to Voicebot, which only analyzed skills in the U.S., the milestone was reached for the first time on June 30, 2017. During the month of June, new skill introductions increased by 23 percent, up from the less than 10 percent growth that was seen in each of the prior three months.
The milestone also represents a more than doubling of the number of skills that were available at the beginning of the year, when Voicebot reported there were then 7,000 skills. That number was officially confirmed by Amazon at CES.
Voicebot also noted that Flash Briefings are still one of the most popular categories of skills, in terms of those that are live on the Alexa Skill Store today. These news and information-focused voice apps include those from major media publications like The Wall St. Journal, NPR, Washington Post (ahem, TechCrunch), and others.
Because they’re one of the easiest skills to develop, Flash Briefings have grown to account for around 20 percent of the available skills. You can see this figure for yourself here on the Alexa Skills store, which indicates there are 2,891 “news” skills live now.
The number of available skills is an important metric for tracking Amazon’s success in the voice computing space.
Amazon is currently the leader in voice-powered devices, where it’s expected to control 70 percent of the market this year — well ahead of Google Home, Lenovo, LG and others. If anything, its success played a role in Apple releasing its own Siri-powered device, the HomePod. Apple’s entrant aims to capture a portion of the market by attracting those who care more about the speaker’s quality than the virtual assistant that ships with it. But one thing Apple is not talking about –– yet — is whether third-party developers will be able to create HomePod-compatible apps.
In the meantime, Amazon’s Alexa is surging ahead, building out an entire voice app ecosystem so quickly that it hasn’t even been able to implement the usual safeguards — like a team that closely inspects apps for terms of service violations, for example, or even tools that allow developers to make money from their creations. (For now, Amazon is simply handing out cash rewards to those building popular game skills — a category it sees has some early traction.)
In the long run, Amazon’s focus on growth over app ecosystem infrastructure could catch up with it. But for now, its Alexa platform is much further ahead than its nearest competitor. Though Google Home saw a spike from holiday sales, it’s the Echo Dot that’s being adopted in droves thanks to its lower price point.
In addition, Google Home has just 378 voice apps available as of June 30, Voicebot notes. Microsoft’s Cortana has only 65.
While there’s been some criticism that many of Amazon’s skills are low-quality, there’s also something to be said for being able to build out an app store’s long tail. Maybe not all the skills are as useful as getting your daily dose of NPR or being able to order an Uber by voice, but having more than 15,000 to choose from means you have a better shot at finding one that will suit your needs.