I believe in Enterprise software for the Amazon Echo

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Over on the Amazon Developer forums, J Jaquinta challenges my idea of Enterprise software for the Amazon Echo.

I responded:

@jjaquinta, of course, you could be correct. It might be a mistake to try to do Enterprise software with the Echo. All I can say is, when we go into a big business and we do a demo, people seem excited. How much of that excitement is due to the novelty factor? I don’t know. It’s possible that executives get momentarily excited by our demo, but once we leave and they have time to think about it, they decide that the Echo is a curiosity and nothing more. Of course, that same question still hangs over the Echo in all spheres, including the home. Is this a gadget that people play with for a week and then abandon, or this a gadget that really becomes part of people’s lives?

The argument for the Echo in the Enterprise has little to do with the Echo’s strengths and a lot to do with the weaknesses of Enterprise software. Most salespeople hate Salesforce. Most executives hate Salesforce. God knows why Salesforce doesn’t invest some money in improving its interface, but for now it is an awful mess. Companies spend millions setting up “reports” so that top level executives can get a sense of their own sales pipeline, and then the executives don’t ever check the reports, because logging into Salesforce and navigating to the report remains too much of a chore for them. The idea that they can simply say “Alexa, ask Cricket to tell me about Big Steak Grill restaurants” (and then get a high level report about the sales made to that restaurant) elicits real excitement.

Based on that excitement, I would guess there is a real market for Enterprise software for the Echo. Again, I realize I could be wrong. We’ve only been working on our little startup for 1 month (though we were previously working on a Natural Language Processing startup that was doing something similar, but with text rather than voice).

I would suggest that this metaphor has an interesting historical aspect:

“Trying to write Enterprise software for it is, well, like trying to cool a data center with your refrigerator.”

That might be true, but remember in the 1970s, when hobbyists were rolling out the first personal computers, IBM took the line that the machines could never be serious because they lacked the cooling systems needed to handle real power. “Trying to write Enterprise software for it is, well, like trying to run your mainframe without your refrigerator.” But the hobbyists simply scaled down their ambitions to fit the machines they could build in their garages. Going without a refrigerator means “I’m willing to build software that works with the hardware I have right now, and I believe the hardware I have right now can still do some interesting things.”

Only time and effort will tell.

Still, I think it is a relatively small thing for Amazon to support secure WPA2 Enterprise wifi. We only need that one feature, and then our sales to Enterprise becomes much, much easier.