Amazon.com Inc. has announced new voice-activated tools for the workplace, hoping that verbal commands – "Alexa, print my spreadsheet" – will handle common office tasks.
Alexa for Business will allow users to make voice commands to start videoconferencing or print documents among a host of common workplace features, Amazon said on Thursday at its cloud computing conference in Las Vegas.
"You no longer need to dial a conference ID," said Werner Vogels, chief technology officer of Amazon, introducing the service. "Just say" Alexa, start the meeting. "
Skills can be accessed via Amazon's Echo digital speakers and integrated into workplace software. Amazon wants to bring to the office its voice-activated technology that customers use to control thermostats and order pizzas at home. The company seeks to make Alexa ubiquitous in the lives of users and considers voice control as the next wave of access to technology, similar to that of the mouse on a personal computer and touch screens on smartphones.
Amazon's product will compete with Microsoft Corp., which introduces its voice-activated Cortana Digital Assistant and its conference call programs for similar desktop tasks. Alexa for Business will be able to use calendars and contact information stored in popular Microsoft Exchange software, according to Vogels.
Customers who already use Alexa for Business include WeWork Cos., Which installs Echo devices in its shared office spaces, and Capital One Financial Corp., said Vogels.
"Once you get used to a more natural way of interacting with your environment, you will not come back," Vogels said. "If voice is a natural way to interact with your home, why do not we build something you can interact with at work?"