This is the last part in a (short) series of posts looking at several aspects of Anytime:
The rumors of Anytime come very close to Amazon’s launch of another communications product: their Alexa Calling and Messaging Service.
This communication service was announced coinciding with the launch of the Amazon Echo Show. It is being marketed as a way for Echo devices to communicate with each other, providing a sort of intercom functionality, but it also supports app-based communications.
Arguably, the app approach is offered for a family member on the go to (video) call home (see min 1:48):
But the fact is that the Alexa app also allows app-to-app calls, and users can set up an account without owning a Echo device. So all in all, the Alexa calls and messages do work as a “complete” independent communication experience. (Well, maybe not so “complete” since the app still offers no photo or video sharing, which is a basic capability nowadays. Images are complicated to be shared with a speaker, but with the display-based new Echo Show I expect this soon will change. )
So users can build a network of contacts around the Alexa app, mostly based on Echo device ownership but not necessarily restricted to that. And, as I discussed in the “Ugly” section of my previous post, Anytime would also have to build such a network without users having a clear incentive for it.
Should Amazon devote energy and resources to grow TWO separate consumer-focused social communication networks? (and I am consciously ignoring here their business communication tool, Chime, because the drivers for building such a network within a specific company is very different)
Social graph density is the key factor for success or failure for these initiatives, and keeping them separate would only weaken them. So I believe that the answer is ‘no’ and that they should create just one network and make it as strong as possible.
What if Anytime is actually a consumer brand for the Alexa Calling and Messaging service, that will gain its own identity? That could make sense, and I can see several advantages to this:
But while making Anytime the featured communication solution for the Alexa devices is a good way to leverage their platform ownership, Amazon should keep in mind opening up their platform so that other communication services can work on top of their Echoes. I discussed this at length in my post about the potential communications strategy for Amazon, but, with the competition for smart speakers/home intelligent assistants coming from Google, Apple or even Alibaba, limiting the options on the device to encourage the usage of Anytime may end up discouraging the use of Echo instead.
Taking a page from Apple’s book, the opportunity sits at creating their own solution (Anytime for Amazon, or iMessage in Apple’s case), making it the best and default option in the platform (Echoes or the iPhone) and allowing developers to offer alternative services (like WhatsApp), creating a market opportunity for both.
There is also another field that Amazon should consider in order to face, and even leverage, the coming wave of eCommerce in messaging services. Why not, instead of trying to own the communications channel, look at other channels available as opportunities?
If Amazon fears the threat of eCommerce in comms becoming a problem, they could put some efforts in co-opetition rather than competition. Creating Amazon channels for Facebook Messenger, Telegram or the coming WhatsApp for business is something they should push, and would allow them to:
Becoming the incumbent on messaging eCommerce ,as they are today on the web, is the way for Amazon to leverage their existing strengths and avoid the risk of Facebook, which owns the main channels but not the relevant content (eCommerce), becoming a competitor.
But this approach entails another risk. If Amazon cannot win enough strength to move the conversations to their own channels or are not able to become relevant enough to properly negotiate with Facebook (or other channel owners), there can be a serious economic impact in its margins. This is because channel owners will take some sort of cut for the transactions happening through them (either a per transaction or a bulk channel fee, but less money for Amazon anyway). But the alternative of not being present on those channels if they are successful is losing the whole market, channel costs plus retail sales, and that is something Amazon cannot allow to happen.
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