Can you get Siri on an Android app? Or, on a Windows PC? Nope. But you can get Amazon’s Alexa on your Mac or iPhone thanks to a free app. Why wouldn’t Apple want to put Siri on Android phones or on Windows PCs?
Apple’s business model is the problem. Amazon sells a little of everything. Google sells advertising. Microsoft sells Windows and Office apps. All but Apple have a vest interest in making their artificial intelligent personal digital assistants available elsewhere. Apple does not. Here’s a look at Amazon’s Alexa on a Mac and iPhone.
It’s The Hardware, Stupid
On the surface (pun intended), you might think all of the aforementioned competitors are in the hardware game. It’s true that Amazon sells some of its own gadgets. Google has the Pixel and Nest and a few others. Microsoft even sells branded PCs with touchscreens. But none of those hardware sales are core to their respective businesses.
Apple’s hardware sales are what keeps the Cupertino doors open and the lights on, hence you’ll find access to competitor software on Macs and iPhones, including Amazon’s Alexa, thanks to an app called Reverb for Alexa (and Reverb for Alexa for iPhone and iPad).
If you think there’s not much to Amazon’s Echo devices and Alexa competing with Siri, you’re pretty much on target. Siri runs on a billion or so devices on planet earth. Alexa runs on a few million Echo devices. It’s funny, too, that Echo is such a huge success among members of the technorati elite politburo while selling far less than the more expensive Apple Watch, which is considered by the same thinkers and dinners as a dud.
Reverb for Alexa works. Download it from the Mac or iOS App Store. Install it. Open it up. Enter your Amazon account information. Start talking. For the Mac, just click and hold to speak (works much like Siri on the Mac).
Ask Alexa the same questions you would ask Siri and you might get different responses.
- Alexa, set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Alexa, set volume to 4.
- Alexa, set an alarm for 5 pm.
- Alexa, why is the sky blue?
- Alexa, how many ounces are in a cup?
- Alexa, how far is the moon?
- Alexa, tell me a joke.
- Alexa, what is 16 plus 41 multiplied by 24?
- Alexa, do you know Siri?
- Alexa, sing happy birthday.
Alexa provides some answers that Siri does not, but likewise, Siri does plenty that Alexa does not. Like go with you in your car.
Remember, Amazon’s Echo is a hardware device, and Alexa is the artificial intelligent software you talk to, so there are some things the hardware device can do that software alone cannot. Or, will not. For example, Echo can play music from your Amazon Music account. Alexa on your Mac or iPhone cannot.
Alexa can answer questions, give you traffic reports, weather and sports scores, and even manage timers and alarms, manage a few compatible smart devices, and other parlor tricks. One thing I don’t like on the Mac is the need to click and hold the microphone button on the app to get Alexa to listen. ‘Always on’ is a technology that works well with Siri, works with Alexa on Echo devices, and is the only way this kind of interaction will get used by the masses.
Reverb for Alexa is free, but don’t forget you’ll need an Amazon account to use it. Otherwise, it’s like having a slightly dumber Alexa on your Mac or iPhone.