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Alexa, Cortana Devices Becoming Phones — to Call Local Businesses

Harmon Kardon Invoke

It was inevitable that the digital assistant device in the kitchen or bedroom would become call-enabled. The implications are immediate and obvious: people will use them to make calls and connect to local businesses.

This afternoon the Wall Street Journal reported that the rumored Amazon Echo with a touchscreen could debut as early as tomorrow. It will apparently make calls over the internet. The previously announced Harmon Kardon speaker (pictured), powered by Microsoft’s Cortana, will also make calls using Skype. Called the Invoke, it will make calls to “cellphones, landlines and other Skype-enabled devices.”

Google Home will be compelled to integrate online calling and so will the forthcoming Apple assistant device (rumored). TalkLocal has been working with Amazon and predicting this inevitability for well over a year.

Calls on these digital assistant devices will enable new lead-based models or, at a minimum, allow for call tracking to measure the volume of traffic being driven by them. People will be able to conduct searches and connect to resulting business listings immediately via phone: “Call Bob’s plumbing.”

In some cases these devices will be more readily available than mobile phones.

While we don’t know yet what the user experience will be like, it’s safe to say that a calling feature will not only change the usage of these devices (think about ordering take out in the kitchen) but will also create additional motivations to buy them. And touchscreens will potentially bring the full range of tablet capabilities.

Amazon’s base of Prime users is estimated to be around 80 million. Right now there are maybe 12 million total digital assistant devices in people’s homes in the US, based on third party data. As these devices become more functional more people will have them.

It’s going to be a very large market.

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