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Amazon Aims for Echo Speakers in Every Office With 'Alexa for Business'

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Amazon's aim to bring its highly popular at-home Echo smart speaker into the workplace got underway on Thursday with the launch of Alexa for Business. The announcement, made at the company's annual Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, sets the stage for Amazon's vision to make its virtual assistant the essential office accessory, able to book conference rooms, launch meetings, and order stationery.

Alexa already has features amenable to an office environment, such as the ability to make calls, operate lights, and check security camera feeds. Now Amazon wants developers to build the virtual assistant into apps that manage work calendars, find open meeting rooms, and order supplies.

As an intelligent assistant at work, Alexa for Business makes starting a conference call as simple as asking Alexa to "start the meeting." Alexa for Business can help workers manage calendars, keep up with to-do lists, and make phone calls. Around the office, Alexa for Business can handle tasks like notifying IT of an equipment issue, or finding and booking an open conference room--all with just a few words.
However, it's unclear how many companies will want to buy Echo speakers for every conference room, given the potential security implications of an "always listening" device. Amazon says its Echo speakers don't send anything to the cloud until users wake the devices by invoking them by name. However, Amazon does store requests in the cloud, which it says are used to help improve AI and develop new skills for the speakers.

Amazon sold "millions" of Alexa devices over the holiday shopping weekend, according to a company press release, with previous estimates suggesting it has sold more than 20 million Alexa devices over the last three years. RBC Capital Markets predicts that by 2020, Alexa device installations could reach 128 million. Over the same period, sales of the virtual assistants could result in more than $10 billion in revenues for Amazon, according to the firm.


Amazon has reportedly added hundreds of engineers to its Alexa program to maintain its edge over rivals like Google Assistant, Microsoft's Cortana, and Apple's Siri, all of which are in the process of building out their voice-activated offerings.

However, Apple will be even further behind after it recently delayed the HomePod's release until early 2018. The device was originally slated to launch in December, but the delay means the $349 speaker won't be ready in time for the holiday shopping season, which could lead customers to look at Echo or Google devices instead.

Article Link: Amazon Aims for Echo Speakers in Every Office With 'Alexa for Business'
 

Mike MA

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I'm curious to what extent this will be adopted as many big players in the business from day one suspended services like Siri on their company iOS devices due to corporate standards.
 
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Sasparilla

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Seems like we're gradually moving towards omnipresent voice access of computers (outside of carrying your phone around).

On another angle, boy would the Chinese (since they have focused very successfully on industrial espionage over the years) want to hack these things in business settings...on privacy concerns alone I'd never want them in a business setting.
 
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PinkyMacGodess

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I get the impression that there aren't any/many clear cut regulations on these devices and what can and can't be done with them by the companies that manufacture and support them.

I assume that they listen all of the time. What stops a company, or third party from listening for 'trigger words' or 'secretive conversations', or from them gleaning 'privileged conversations' and leaking that information to competitors or regulators.

I can see someone saying they would like to 'kill' someone, and the cops descending on them ala Minority Report, and also competitors having corporate plans and information 'leaked' to destroy them.

I personally will never have anything that blatant in my house, car, or office. It's not that I have anything to hide, I just don't need the surveillance. Plus, if i need to know the temperature outside, I can stick an arm out the door like the cavemen of antiquity used to do. :)
 
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PinkyMacGodess

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On another angle, boy would the Chinese (since they have focused very successfully on industrial espionage over the years) want to hack these things in business settings...on privacy concerns alone I'd never want them in a business setting.

With all of the talk about hackers able to turn on the mics of cellphones and listen to everything going on, yeah, I'd be concerned about this too.

I remember reports going around about 'secret software' being installed on Cisco and other vendors equipment by the Chinese government prior to being shipped from their contract manufacturer. I doubted that would be possible, but also never heard anything more than the idea that it might be happening.

I have a very hard time trusting corporate America. I'm thinking that's not a bad thing...
 
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Chupa Chupa

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On another angle, boy would the Chinese (since they have focused very successfully on industrial espionage over the years) want to hack these things in business settings...on privacy concerns alone I'd never want them in a business setting.

I was thinking the same thing. I'd love to adopt Alexa, but stick with Siri, because of the (mistaken? naive?) belief Siri is a touch bit more secure and sensitive about my privacy. I can't imagine a company of any size and importance would willing bring in a Trojan horse. But maybe Amazon will beef up security to better satisfy business requirements. Amazon has a great product speaker line, they just need to build more trust in it for me.
 
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convergent

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I don't think they literally mean to take an existing Echo and put it in an office... this would likely be a different Echo platform. Many of the skills in the home Echo are things that businesses would not care about... ordering detergent, turning on music, etc.. They are probably working on business skills. Ironically, Microsoft and their Cortana enabled speaker is probably better suited to business because integration with Microsoft Office would be of high interest for a business based Echo. To a smaller extent, Google is starting be used in a lot of business too. So Amazon might actually prompt Google or Microsoft to go after this space.

Regarding security, again, I think this would be a different Echo platform. I just got my first Echo a week ago ... an Echo Dot that was basically free in a Black Friday bundle. I am shocked that I'm already using it a lot. I almost never used Siri in the past, but I have the Dot on my home office desk and finding it useful. Better integration with Microsoft Office, which Cortana already has, would make it very good. I recall that Amazon and Microsoft are actually working on tying Cortana and Echo together. But back to security, there is a mute button on the Echo that makes it stop listening. For a business based Echo in conference room, I would expect you'd just leave it muted until you wanted to have a meeting and use it. So maybe they would make the default state muted and you have to turn it on to use it.
 
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timkmc

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Dec 1, 2017
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Every office with a laptop, phone or smartphone has a microphone in it, and it's no more or less secure than the Echo, in regards to hacking. Our trust of, or lack there of, technology is already present. The thing that gets people on edge is this is more blatant, as the microphone is a key feature to the service. If listening concerns are real, then we've all got devices we need to pitch sitting right next to you.
 
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Jetfire

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I think Apple has hurt themselves here with the delayed HomePod this holiday season. I bought an echo and Echo dot earlier this year when Amazon had a sale. What to se how they worked a started to setup home automation. I was hoping the HomePod would come out soon. I just got an Echo show for the kitchen. Amazon seems to be always improving Alexa. Don’t know what Apple is doing with Siri

Amazon is expanding the Alexa ecosystem faster than Apple is With Siri. Also from what Ihave seen with the Echo. The HomePod is way to expensive. I can get dots for $30 and put them in every room. A Echo Show is $179

Yes the HomePod seems to have a great speaker but a $350 I can’t put that in every room. I may buy one or two for special rooms but that leaves all the other rooms empty. It also has no display.
 
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convergent

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I think Apple has hurt themselves here with the delayed HomePod this holiday season. I bought an echo and Echo dot earlier this year when Amazon had a sale. What to se how they worked a started to setup home automation. I was hoping the HomePod would come out soon. I just got an Echo show for the kitchen. Amazon seems to be always improving Alexa. Don’t know what Apple is doing with Siri

Amazon is expanding the Alexa ecosystem faster than Apple is With Siri. Also from what Ihave seen with the Echo. The HomePod is way to expensive. I can get dots for $30 and put them in every room. A Echo Show is $179

Yes the HomePod seems to have a great speaker but a $350 I can’t put that in every room. I may buy one or two for special rooms but that leaves all the other rooms empty. It also has no display.

Agree with all of your comments. This is an area where Apple is going to have a hard time being in their walled garden. Microsoft and Amazon are starting to work together to have Echo and Cortana talk to each other, and likely that will happen with Google as well (but you never know with them). Each assistant is better suited for certain things... Amazon's for home functions and shopping; Google for search; and Microsoft for office integration and personal agenda planning. Siri isn't best at anything. I've had many Siri enabled devices and rarely ever used it for anything. Now being more out of Apple world, I'm using these things more and more. I am using Bixby daily on my Note 8... I've used it more in 2 months than I used Siri in several years.

Apple missing this holiday season when the local best buy had huge stacks of discounted Google Homes and Amazon Alexas at great prices... big miss. I think Apple will have a really hard time in this space, but with the Apple faithful around, they will sell some for sure.
 
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newdeal

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you guys realize there is a button right on it to disable the mic right? You can turn it off or on whenever you want. My office is going to have an echo in each room to play music, the ones in rooms with confidential conversations are going to be hidden and have the mics disabled. The others will be used for drop ins to have in office intercom between employees in areas which are not confidential as well as streaming music. It beats having to wire each room for audio with ceiling mounted speakers and having to pick up the phone to call from room to room
 
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pika2000

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Every office with a laptop, phone or smartphone has a microphone in it, and it's no more or less secure than the Echo, in regards to hacking. Our trust of, or lack there of, technology is already present. The thing that gets people on edge is this is more blatant, as the microphone is a key feature to the service. If listening concerns are real, then we've all got devices we need to pitch sitting right next to you.
Those microphones in a laptop/phone are at least controllable by the company (through hardware control/software/OS profiles). On the Amazon echo, Amazon is the one holding the key. And since the advertised function relies on an always-on connection (contrary to the microphones on a laptop unless one enables Cortana/Siri), obviously one should be more wary of the Echo.
 
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GrumpyMom

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Amazon will need more than three wake words available for this to happen. Imagine being named Alexa and working in an office with everyone constantly calling your name.
You can definitely rename it from Alexa. My mother-in-law had a stroke and can’t say “Alexa” very easily, so we redid hers to respond to “Echo”.
 
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bruinsrme

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So many companies deal with intellectual property, I'm not sure how you trust that with Google, Amazon, or even Apple.
Then again how many of these companies are already using AWS and how many companies are those companies they are doing business with are using AWS.
It seems amazon would need to provide additional administrator tools.
 
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macs4nw

macrumors 601
Seems like we're gradually moving towards omnipresent voice access of computers (outside of carrying your phone around).

On another angle, boy would the Chinese (since they have focused very successfully on industrial espionage over the years) want to hack these things in business settings...on privacy concerns alone I'd never want them in a business setting.
Yes, 'Alexa for Business' has the potential to be hacked into a tiny, but powerful little industrial espionage tool.
 
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asdavis10

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Corporate espionage packaged in convenience. If I were in charge of the IT policy for a large business, I'd never allow Amazon or Google into my environment. Their business is to know about their customer.
 
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GrumpyMom

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Corporate espionage packaged in convenience. If I were in charge of the IT policy for a large business, I'd never allow Amazon or Google into my environment. Their business is to know about their customer.
Amazon is actually a huge provider of cloud based services for business. I would imagine they’d implement some strong security on these business Echos otherwise they aren’t going to sell very many. If you and I are wary, I’d imagine someone whose livelihood depended on security would have certain demands.

Lol...but then there’s the shining example of security implementation at Equifax. Jeez...maybe I give too much credit to business people in my imagination. ;):D
 
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