In June 2015, third party developers were allowed to create their own skills for Amazon‘s (NASDAQ:AMZN) digital assistant Alexa. A little over a year and a half later, an important milestone has been reached. Alexa now has more than 10,000 skills available, with ‘Beat the Intro’ as its 10,000th skill — a music game from Musicplode Media that tests one’s knowledge and love for music.
It’s an impressive figure, especially considering that the number of Alexa’s skills tripled in just a little over 5 months starting from September 2016 (according to a blog post by Alexa chief evangelist Dave Isbitski), with the latest 3,000 skills being added within the last couple of months. But, even if Alexa can boast of having far more skills than its competitors — Google Assistant hasn’t even reached 100 yet — it would be much better off if all of its skills were actually useful. In fact, we’d even settle for just a tenth of that big number. Because really, what’s 10,000 almost useless skills compared with 1,000 completely useful ones?
At the moment, Alexa’s top five skill categories are: (1) News (2) Gaming (3) Education/Reference (4) Lifestyle (5) Novelty/Humor. And that makes perfect sense. But what about all those other skills which are almost bordering on absurdity? There’s ‘Elf Name Generator’ which will give you an elf name based on questions that Alexa asks you. There’s ‘Egg Facts’ which, you guessed it, gives you facts about eggs. There’s ‘Guess My Number’ which asks you to think of a number between 0 and 100, and what Alexa will do is to guess the number you’ve chosen. We could go on but that would probably mean pages and pages because like we mentioned, it simply seems that Alexa has more pointless skills than helpful ones.
We understand why Amazon opened Alexa to developers. It was essentially a smart move because it was the only way to add on skills at a pace that might otherwise have been impossible had they limited access only to their own developer community. And many developers jumped on the chance to create ‘talking’ apps, or ones that you talk to instead of touch. But then, just like with Google Play and the App Store, it also opened up the way for the creation of horribly worthless apps.
On the other hand, there’s also no denying that there are some developers who take time to study customer behavior so they can add features that Alexa users will benefit from. As cited by Wired, GE Appliances is one of those. After noticing how frequently their customers used Alexa for hands-free oven operation, they responded by ‘rolling in presets’. And now, users can just ask Alexa to set their oven for whatever it is they’re heating it up in just 1 command.
Maybe that’s where Amazon should concentrate on. As the novelty of having so many skills to choose from eventually wears off and users settle on that limited number of skills that help make their day-to-day routine just a little bit easier, the numbers won’t matter as much. After all, this is one clear case where quality is way more important than quantity.