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Who Is This Alexa Anyway?

Your Boss May Soon Be Hiring Alexa

Amazon has built a wide lead in the field with its popular at-home Echo speaker, which was launched in late 2014. The company is now counting on its new service, dubbed Alexa for Business and available immediately, to spark a surge in voice computing in the workplace.

The online retail giant announced the initiative here Thursday at the annual conference for its Amazon Web Services cloud-computing unit, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Even before Amazon made a push into business, RBC Capital Markets predicted that by 2020, Alexa device installations could reach 128 million. Over that same period, the voice-activated internet could result in more than $10 billion in revenues for Amazon, according to the firm.

Still, it remains to be seen how many companies will want to buy Echo speakers for every conference room, as well as design programs for unproven technology in the workplace. In addition, companies may not want workers talking to devices in crowded offices. As for company secrets, Amazon has said its Echo devices don’t send anything to the cloud until users wake the devices with its name, typically “Alexa.”

The effort to expand Alexa’s reach into the workplace comes as the service faces increased competition from virtual assistants created by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc.’s Siri, and Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana. Windows 10 computers, increasingly rolling out into workplaces, include the ability to speak to Cortana and get audio responses, for example.

That competitive pressure, in part, has led Amazon to add hundreds of engineers to the Alexa program and give it hiring preference over other divisions.