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GeekWire reports that “Amazon says more than 100 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold, a figure that shows the company’s early lead in virtual assistant technology is paying off … Amazon is notoriously secretive about device sales but the new figure sheds some light on the popularity of devices powered by the company’s voice-controlled assistant.”

The story notes that “Google, Apple, and Microsoft are all competing with Amazon for dominance in virtual assistants. Amazon’s Alexa has led the way for years, but the market has become much more competitive recently. Google is gaining ground in the space, and a September report found the Google Home Mini was the top-selling smart speaker in the second quarter of 2018, though Amazon’s devices still outsold Google in aggregate.”

The Wall Street Journal,meanwhile, has a story this morning about how, despite all the promises, real integration of virtual assistants into our lives remains a goal, not a reality. People “don’t want a thousand commands for a thousand devices. In most cases, voice-controlled assistants have hit a wall where they perform a specific set of tasks well and not much else. They may be crazy ambitious, but they aren’t ready to take on real work.”

The question, as always, is the degree to which these companies can monetize this technology … which doesn’t just mean using them to sell stuff (though that’s important) but also enveloping their users in the soft, warm, and irresistible embrace of whatever ecosystem them represent.

TechCrunch has a story about the debut of Amazon Showroom, described as “a visual design tool that allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customize the décor, then shop the look … the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall color and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing — including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug and even the art on the wall … Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here.”

It was, TechCrunch notes, just over a year ago that Amazon “launched its first in-home furniture brands, with private labels Rivet and Stone & Beam. This past fall, it began experimenting with a new, more visual way to shop for furniture and other merchandise with its Pinterest-like recommendation service Scout.”
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