Amazon Pushes English-Only Alexa into 28 New Countries

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By Jonathan Collins | 4Q 2017 | IN-4854

Facing growing competition, Amazon’s decision to offer English-only Alexa and Echo offerings highlights a change in. This may be an attempt to mitigate the lost time spent offering localized versions of Alexa as Amazon realizes the urgency of maintaining its share within the fast-growing smart home market.

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Amazon Expands Global Availability of Echo Devices


On December 8, Amazon extended availability of its Echo devices and Alexa smart home platform to an additional 28 countries. Prior to that, Echo devices were only available for purchase in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, and India. This announcement represents not just a geographic expansion for Amazon’s Alexa and its Echo offerings, but a significant change in Amazon’s strategy. Rather than await localized language versions that would require longer development times, the new 28 countries will only have English language versions made available. This decision highlights the growing competition Amazon is facing from later entrants into the smart home voice control market, as well as the urgency of building a global user base as quickly as possible.

New Availability in Countries across Europe and Latin America


Amazon was the first major vendor to release a dedicated smart home voice control device, providing it with a significant first-mover advantage. Launched in 2015, the initial Echo device, combined with Amazon’s successful marketing and competitive pricing, created a market and gave Amazon a 14-month head start over its nearest competitor, Google, which did not launch its first smart home voice control front-end device, Google Home, until late 2016. Amazon’s first-mover advantage helped the retailer develop its device ecosystem, market share, and user base. Amazon’s first non-English version of Alexa and Echo devices launched in Germany in 2016, and in November 2017, Amazon Echo was launched in Japan after Amazon worked with local Japanese developers to develop support for Japanese.

Amazon’s 28 new countries cover Western Europe (Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden), Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia), and Latin America (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Uruguay).

A Defensive Play against Gaining Global Competition


The smart home market is currently on the tip of regionalization with vendors developing language support and features specific to national and local markets, as smart home uptake gathers pace outside the bellwether U.S. market. Amazon is facing stiff competition from both Google and Apple. Both of those vendors leverage the scale, reach, and multi-language support of their mobile OS voice recognition and AI platforms—Google Assistant and Apple Siri, respectively—within smart home devices and for smart home control. Siri currently offers support for 21 languages for the HomeKit platform, while Google offers 6 languages on its smart home platform, both more than Amazon, which currently offers 3 languages on its Alexa Platform. Amazon is clearly hard-pressed to quickly match its rivals, Google, Apple, and even Microsoft’s Cortana, in terms of local language support. Additionally, with LINE releasing its Clova smart speaker in Japan, and Alibaba,, Xiaomi, and other smart home platform and device providers already launched in the Chinese market, localized capabilities and language support is becoming increasingly valuable.

But Amazon’s decision to extend to new country markets using only English language support speaks to more than the complexity of multi-language support. It is also testament to the speed with which smart home adoption is taking place outside the United States, as well as the key value in smart home voice control, in terms of adoption and the long-term future of the smart home. Voice control is becoming the key smart home interface and each vendor is moving quickly to establish its voice control platform as the beachhead in a long-term strategy to become the key mediator and data repository for smart home services.

Amazon may not be stepping back from localization efforts, just trying to mitigate the impact of time lost bringing localized versions of Alexa to the market. There are notable omissions from the list of markets where English-only versions are set to ship, such as France, Italy, and Spain, suggesting localized languages and features may be set for release in those countries. In addition, Amazon announced its streaming music service also now supports French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese interfaces, which may further indicate Amazon’s ability and commitment to develop wider language support within the Alexa platform.

ABI Research’s latest smart home voice control platform market study, Voice Control Smart Home Platforms (CA-1242), details the value of driving language compatibilities through data collection, comparing rival strategies and functionality among players that include Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Xiaomi, LINE, and others.


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