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Amazon Echo platform?

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loop101

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I've read Amazon has sold about 50M Alexa-powered Echo devices, a lot less than the 1.3B iOS devices and 2B Android. Does anyone know if the "skills" can access web-based information that does not go through Amazon? I'm wondering how open the platform is. The best case would be unrestricted access to web content, worst case would be nothing plays on an Alexa until Amazon approves it. For example, if a user had a bunch of audio files they legally owned, on an FTP server, could a skill download and play them? Could it create and upload new audio files to a private server? Could you send encrypted audio streams from a website to the device?
 

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George Appiah

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I'm not a developer and I haven't touched my Echo Dot in over a year (the novelty went away for me very quickly)... so I don't know the latest in Alexaland :)

That said...

1) These devices themselves are nothing but souped-up microphones and speakers/screens. All the heavy-lifting takes place in the cloud. The Echo device simply records the voice command and uploads it to Amazon's servers... where it's executed... and the results downloaded to the Echo device for playback. So you cannot completely bypass the provider, as, say, installing LineageOS on your Android phone (completely bypassing Google) or installing OpenWRT on your Linksys router (completely bypassing Cisco).

2) If you don't need Amazon's Alexa Skill Store distribution, you can build a Private Skill. You still have to talk to the Alexa API and live by its terms... but you're not subjected to the kind of vetting you'd expect if you publish your skill to the public Alexa Skills Store.

For example, if a user had a bunch of audio files they legally owned, on an FTP server, could a skill download and play them? Could it create and upload new audio files to a private server? Could you send encrypted audio streams from a website to the device?
There are already apps Skills that do these already, some of them even available in the public Alexa Skill Store, including Plex... the popular personal media server. All the Podcast Player and Website Reader skills are doing essentially the same thing.

My Media for Alexa installs a tiny media server on your computer that integrates with Amazon Alexa to give you voice control over your media collection. It even integrates with your existing iTunes collection. Put it on a VM in the cloud, and you can access your media anywhere (with Echo or Alexa app on your smartphone).

If you have the dev skills, you'd just build your own.

When I got my gen2 Echo Dot a while back I was able to very quickly deploy an open source YouTube Player skill privately to my own device to play YouTube content on the Echo Dot, as YouTube Player skills were not allowed in the public Alexa Store at the time.

I've read Amazon has sold about 50M Alexa-powered Echo devices, a lot less than the 1.3B iOS devices and 2B Android.
That makes it 3.350B Alexa-capable devices then, as every Android and iOS device (well, most) can have Alexa capabilities by installing the Alexa app (just as you can pretty much be a Kindle user and consume Kindle content on Android and iOS devices without ever owning an actual Kindle device).
 
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