“Alexa, reorder 100 packages of copy paper.”
“Alexa, ask Salesforce for the current status of my team’s big deals scheduled to close this quarter.”
Office workers soon will be asking questions like these of Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa voice-activated “intelligent assistant” device, Amazon suggested yesterday in announcing its launch of Alexa for Business.
The concept already has plenty of interest among business executives and e-commerce industry experts. When B2B e-commerce industry expert Andy Hoar was asked during a B2B seminar last month to name the most promising near-term, practical technology innovations that companies should consider deploying, he answered “Alexa.” Appearing on a panel about technology investments at the B2BecWorld Executive Seminar in New York on Oct. 26, he gave as an example a professional mechanic working in a repair shop, who could simply call out to an internet-connected device powered by Alexa-type software to place an online order for an auto part or tool.
Other technology providers are already beginning to integrate their technologies with Alexa for Business, Amazon noted in its announcement. They include Salesforce.com Inc., the provider of cloud-based CRM, e-commerce and other technology applications.
Ryan Aytay, Salesforce.com’s executive vice president, business development and strategic accounts, says Salesforce sees Alexa for Business as a tool that will help its business clients “build deeper, more meaningful relationships” with their customers. “We are thrilled to be a part of the Alexa for Business launch and to provide our customers exciting new channels to get business done faster and build closer connections with their own customers,” he said in a press release Amazon issued yesterday.
Ray Grady, president of CloudCraze, provider of e-commerce technology built on the Salesforce CRM platform, says he sees Alexa for Business playing an important role in developing highly personalized and efficient ways for companies to interact with their suppliers as well as their customers through B2B e-commerce.
Amazon says Alexa for Business is also designed to work with several applications that manage various types of business operations, such as RingCentral for accessing voice mail; online data management software provider Splunk, for retrieving information from a company’s cloud-based software applications; and online travel information service Concur Labs, for getting updates on a planned travel itinerary.
Amazon is also making available an Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa for Business APIs, which are designed to help users develop new “skills” to manage tasks through Alexa for Business. APIs, or application programming interfaces, are sets of software instructions for sharing data between software applications.
Alexa for Business will compete with Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana voice-activated digital assistant, which works with Microsoft’s conference-call programs. The Amazon product will also work with digital calendars and contact information stored in Microsoft’s Exchange software, says Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technology officer.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.
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