Actions, Skills, and Bots are Not App Stores

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While there are parallels between Google Actions, Alexa Skills, and Messenger Bots to app stores (Google Play or Apple App Store), there are some fundamental differences that programmers should consider as they design for these. (I’ll refer to Alexa Skills to cover all of the different platforms)

  1. If apps are running software on a new device, Skills and the like are more like enabling a new interface to an API.
  2. It is possible to charge for apps, it will be extremely difficult to charge for Skills.
  3. Skills discovery is a lot more tedious than for apps. Sure, there’s marketing and top ranking lists, but users will not be as eager to seek out Skills.
  4. Skills are inherently only as useful as the APIs to which they connect. Not a useful API? The Skills won’t be useful either.
  5. Skills can enable new ways of consumer subscription services (think Sirius XM as a Skill) or adding it as a way of accessing a home monitoring service’s status.

If developers are mindful of the above, it will help keep their expectations in line as they design their Skills.

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