Loose or Tight Fit? Data Partnership Strategies in Voice Solutions

If you don’t read The Information, you probably should start.

Their recent report on Apple’s Siri and the struggle to help Siri’s experience improve is a fascinating dive into the pros and cons of an open ecosystem approach. For many companies like Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Google, the desire to improve user experiences has to be measured against the impending chaos that can consume a project when “too open”.

All of this typically comes down to a data partnership strategy. There are very loose connections, allowing for almost anyone with basic coding skills to build upon your platform, and there are incredibly tight, restrictive approaches that are designed to prevent abuses or poor user experiences by limiting partnerships with contractual obligations. Honestly, both systems offer merit, but they have to be resolved to where the market for the platform currently exists. There also exists countless variations in between a loose or strict partnership approach.

For example, when Thomson Reuters decided to essentially rebuild their entire ecosystem into a platform called Eikon almost a decade ago, the original vision included a complete App Development kit. This eventually became what today is called the App Studio. Which, for the most part, operates in between a strict and loose standard effectively. Because Thomson Reuters focuses on providing answers to several particular verticals, there has always been a desire to ensure the partnerships permitted into the platform specifically would add value to those customers. While plenty of people apply, most only find success building applications that meet those needs, and Thomson Reuters then helps advertise the capabilities to their customer base.

Amazon Alexa has taken a looser, yet far more expansive approach. Because their customer base is much more B2C focused, there is almost no skill feasible that wouldn’t potentially have a market for users.  Passing 25,000 different outside developed skills late last year, Alexa is evolving at a truly impressive speed. Unfortunately, this can mean that many apps and solutions get a bit lost in the shuffle. The upside, however, is that a very open ecosystem and very welcoming app development partnership approach ensures rapid adoption and rapid development. We continue to be nothing but impressed with the improvements and believe this approach in voice platforms to be highly likely to win out.

Samsung’s Bixby and Google’s Assistant platform are also very open to development and will continue to gain ground.  As we often say here at DataSmart, “Google knows more” but “Amazon does more” as this article from CNET appears to agree. Look for a convergence by both platforms to offering more and more knowledge and capabilities.

Every data platform ultimately must choose how strict or loose their data partnership strategy will be. So far, in the arms race to create the best user experiences, I see a clear trend that very open protocols will continue to win out in the B2C space, while more restrictive contracts and integrations will win the day in B2B platforms. That said, this morning’s news about yet another misuse of personal data for political gain and manipulation highlights that the need to place more restrictive protections on personal information may soon make these wide open platforms more susceptible to regulation.

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