Amazon Alexa has been pre-installed for some time on select PC systems from the likes of Acer, HP, and Lenovo but now anyone with Windows 10 can install it. The app is available in the Windows Store, for PC users in the UK, US, and Germany (more countries coming in 2019).
The Amazon Alexa app is said to bring “the convenience of Alexa” to your PC with its wide range of voice commands. You can do things like check your calendar, create lists, play music, check the weather, shop for Amazon stuff, and control smart home devices. It should work in a complementary fashion to Cortana but there seems to be quite a bit of overlap in functions. Remember that Microsoft and Amazon announced that they were going to get the two AI Assistants to talk to each other a little over a year ago, and now the fruit of the cooperation is available in this general release.
As the app has just become available you might not be surprised to hear that it isn’t quite as fully featured as an Amazon Echo device, for example. Reports suggest that Spotify and Pandora don’t play with PC Alexa right now. Furthermore, PCs often will not have the hardware to make hands-free ‘wake-on-voice’ work – instead a screen button or hotkey must be used to summon Alexa.
In the app settings you can toggle sounds to indicate when Alexa is listening, adjust the wake word (if supported by your hardware), and toggle auto-start. The Alexa app currently doesn’t support hands-free modes except for those with ‘tuned’ devices upon which it was pre-installed, like the Acer Spin 5.
Around 50,000 Amazon skills are available to Alexa users and Amazon promises some more PC specific skills are in the pipeline, which might be interesting. A final thing worth mentioning is that the new Alexa app for PC utilises Microsoft’s Fluent Design language with ‘acrylic’ panels, and Dark Mode options all present and correct.