We introduced Alexa and Amazon Echo more than four years ago with a vision to make life a little easier through the power and simplicity of voice. And this year, we’ve been delighted by how you have made Alexa part of your life. In fact, the number of customers interacting with Alexa daily and those who own multiple Echo devices both doubled in 2018. This tells us Alexa is helping you get more done every day throughout your home.
There’s a lot that Alexa can do. In fact, it can be hard for even me to keep up. So, I wanted to take a moment to look back on 2018 and share some of my favorite Alexa features from this year.
Alexa is in more places
In 2018, Alexa went more places than ever before. Alexa added stamps to her passport with new native experiences in Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico, and she learned new languages along the way. We sold tens of millions of Echo devices and introduced more than a dozen new Amazon devices that feature and work with Alexa, including all-new versions of Echo Show, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus, as well as new devices like the Echo Dot Kids Edition, Fire TV Cube, Show Mode on Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets, and more. Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday was the biggest holiday shopping weekend ever for Echo devices, with millions sold worldwide, and the all-new Echo Dot was the #1 selling product on Amazon globally, from any manufacturer, in any category.
We’ve also seen more device makers building Alexa directly into their products. The number of products available with Alexa built-in more than doubled this year, and now includes everything from PCs and headphones, to wearables and smart home devices. Alexa hopped in the driver’s seat with Echo Auto and we’re also working with Audi, BMW, Ford, Lincoln, Lexus, SEAT, and Toyota to integrate Alexa into their vehicles. At work, Alexa got smarter through enhancements to Alexa for Business, and if you are traveling this holiday, you might bump into her at your favorite hotel thanks to Alexa for Hospitality. Alexa even made a new friend this year with Microsoft Cortana.
Alexa learned new things
Alexa can do millions of things, and learns something new every day. In just the last year, she added billions of additional data points so she can answer even more of your questions – whether you’re brushing up on current events or your favorite MLB team. And now, there is a way for you to help her learn even more with Alexa Answers.
We’re not the only ones teaching Alexa new things. Our developer community has built more than 70,000 skills for Alexa, and increased the number of Alexa compatible smart home devices to more than 28,000 devices from more than 4,500 brands – that’s up 6x since the beginning of the year.
Alexa makes life more convenient
Customers tell us that they love how Alexa makes things easier throughout their house. Alexa can help you get more done with new smart home features and enhancements to existing features like Alexa Routines. One of my favorites is Alexa Announcements, where I can call my kids to dinner with a broadcast message to all of the Echo devices in my household. We’ve also added the ability for customers to control more Alexa settings with just their voice.
Customers are using Alexa millions of times each day to control their home, so of course we wanted to make your smart home even smarter. We introduced Frustration-Free Setup to make setting up a device as easy as plugging it in, and Hunches, so now Alexa can make suggestions like, “By the way, I see you left your porch lights on. Would you like me to turn them off?”
Alexa is more personal and conversational
In 2018 Alexa became even more personalized to you. Alexa can now help you remember important information like birthdays and anniversaries through a feature called Remember This. And using Alexa Skill Blueprints, customers can create their own personalized skills for Alexa through easy to use templates. We’ve heard customers are using Skill Blueprints to keep track of household chores, leave personalized instructions for their houseguests, and more.
Many of these features wouldn’t be possible without the power of AI and the AWS cloud. We have teams of people working hard to make Alexa more natural and conversational every day. In addition to improving the service's speech recognition and natural language understanding, we added Multi-step Requests, Follow-Up Mode, and Context Carryover to make interacting with Alexa even easier and more natural. And, we also made it easier for you to find and enable skills using more natural requests. But one of the coolest new features for me has to be Whisper Mode. Alexa can now detect if you are whispering to her and adapt her responses. That means, if you whisper your request to her, she'll whisper back. It's no surprise that we're hearing from new parents that they love this feature.
Alexa is more visual
This year Alexa gained even more compelling visual features and popped up on more smart screens, including the all-new Echo Show, Fire TV Cube, Fire tablets, and devices built by companies like Lenovo and Sony. You can ask Alexa to watch live TV, stream videos, or play your favorite music videos through new integrations from Hulu, NBC, and Vevo. Alexa now features step-by-step visual cooking features, which are great for those extra messy moments when your hands are busy in the kitchen. If you forgot the secret ingredient to Mom’s famous holiday cookies, it's easy to give her call through a new integration with Skype. And, whether you are expecting guests for dinner or waiting for a package to arrive, you can now easily see and talk to anyone at the front door through a compatible video doorbell.
We’re also seeing how the screen can make Alexa more approachable for more customers. People of all ages love Alexa and we want Alexa to be available for everyone, so we’ve rolled out features like Tap to Alexa, allowing customers to set up their own touch-based shortcuts for Alexa requests, and introduced Alexa Captions on Echo Show and Echo Spot.
Alexa connects you to more entertainment
Customers love listening to music on Alexa and Echo, and this year Amazon Music added dozens of new features to make listening to your favorite music with Alexa even easier. We also added left-right stereo mode to Echo devices, the ability to adjust the equalizer on your devices, and extended multi-room music to Alexa-enabled products built by other device makers, so you can play music everywhere in your home. Alexa can also help you find your favorite music faster with new support for Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora Premium, and more.
And it’s not just music-lovers who are enjoying Alexa. Binge-watchers and TV-lovers can now use Fire TV Cube, the first hands-free streaming media player with Alexa, to control their content with just their voice. For those of you constantly losing the remote, Alexa also learned how to set and manage DVR recordings through Fire TV Recast and other compatible devices, control TV power, and added new ways to navigate video and gaming content with integrations with Xbox, TiVo, Dish, Netflix, and DIRECTV.
Alexa is fun for the whole family
We can’t forget about fun! Alexa is one of the biggest repositories of corny jokes on Earth, and just this year, Alexa has told more than 100 million jokes. She even invited Jimmy Fallon to come and tell jokes with her – just say, “Alexa, give me a Jimmy joke.” She's also more fun for the entire family with FreeTime on Alexa, a new experience built from the ground-up just for families and kids. FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa features a growing catalog of kid-friendly content including podcasts, more than 1,000 Audible books, kids skills, Alexa Routines and more. The easiest way for families to get started is with the Echo Dot Kids Edition.
It feels like I barely scratched the surface of all of the ways Alexa became more helpful this year. So, where do we go from here? In 2019, we’re going to continue to work hard to make Alexa even more natural, personal and useful, so she can help you get more done. And you'll see her in more places and devices, too.
We want to take a moment to thank our customers for all of their feedback, ideas, and stories over the past year. We are humbled that you have found such value in Alexa, and I hope you are excited as I am about the year ahead.