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Amazon Out to Break Into VoIP

May 09, 2017

Amazon's overall strategy for the last few years seems to be boiled down to one word: “yes.” It seems like there isn't a market out there the company won't actively chase after, using what profit it does pull in as seed money to branch out still further. This worked quite well with Amazon Web Services (AWS), but can lightning strike twice with a new plan to pursue the voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) market?

The whole notion of such a plan was recently revealed thanks to a newly-discovered patent, in which Amazon noted the possibility of adding certain capabilities to Alexa that would allow it to act as a VoIP system. It's been described as being similar to Microsoft's Skype, but with the difference that it's built into hardware rather than being a strictly software concept. The patent noted how Alexa would be able to link to a carrier network, and from there, route calls to the network. The device wouldn't strictly be necessary, reports note, but Alexa phones would be able to handle the connections, with the device as kind of a simplifying intermediary.

This isn't exactly new ground that Amazon's breaking here, as many devices will offer some degree of hands-free calling, and Skype can already interact with a variety of devices on hand. Amazon's primary ability to compete here will be found in its high-end voice recognition systems, which are more likely to actually call a targeted person. Reports suggest that Alexa's first work in this market will be strictly limited to the United States market, with international markets to follow likely after Alexa works the kinks out.

Amazon's seemingly trying to get in on a market that's already fairly crowded, thanks to services like Skype, as well as Facetime and a growing array of Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) tools. However, Amazon has a notable advantage here in its established user base; how many current Skype users that have Alexa systems will eschew Skype in favor of a slightly more convenient connection with Alexa? If the number is anything but a trivial percentage, it's going to be a threat to Skype, and one that can't readily be countered.

In fact, Alexa has a decent chance to compete here; VoIP services are comparatively similar across the board, and few could likely add a service that couldn't at least be replicated elsewhere. Alexa's convenience and name recognition could prove to be an unstoppable combination that delivers value to the user and improved profit to Amazon proper.

Edited by Alicia Young

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