Amazon Launches New Alexa Skills Kit Developer Console in Beta

Amazon today announced the beta launch of a new version of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) developer console that aims to streamline the experience of creating, managing and publishing Alexa Skills.

The new version of the developer console breaks the Alexa skill development lifecycle into four phases – build, test, launch and measure – and the navigation structure of the developer console has been updated to reflect this. 

The developer console interface makes it easy for developers to identify and move between the specific steps within each phase. For instance, when in the Build section of the console, developers can easily create custom intents, slots, sample utterances and dialog models, as well as link accounts and configure permissions.

In addition to restructuring the ASK developer console, Amazon is doing away with skill types, which are now referred to as interaction models. Developers can choose from a number of pre-built interaction models – Flash briefing, smart home and video – or create custom models. The developer console includes new functionality. The Test section of the console, for instance, gives developers the ability to interact with their skills using voice or text and test various components of their skill, including single utterances, multi-turn dialogs and device renderings.

The new console's Launch section allows developers to preview how their skills will appear in the Alexa skills store and displays common validation errors. Developers can also now create and publish private skills for use with Alexa for Business, something that previously required the use of the Alexa Skills Kit Command Line Interface (CLI).

Finally, Amazon is giving developers access to analytics data. In addition to statistical data for sessions, unique customers and utterances, Amazon is providing a new cohort analysis tool that lets developers see how retention and engagement metrics of their skills are changing over time.

Keeping Developers Happy

Alexa is fast becoming one of Amazon's most valuable technology assets, and that is largely a result of Amazon's dominant lead in the smart speaker market. Amazon's Echo Dot smart speaker was the best-selling product on Amazon this past holiday and according to a number of estimates, Amazon now owns somewhere between 70% and 76% of the smart speaker market. 

But Google, with its Google Assistant-powered Google Home smart speakers, and Apple, with its Siri-powered HomePod device, are working to best Amazon, and some observers believe that Amazon's lead in this growing market will inevitably narrow over time.

One of the ways Amazon can maintain its edge is by strengthening the Amazon Alexa developer ecosystem. As has been seen in other markets, keeping developers happy is a must. Developer experience, of course, is a big part of that and the new ASK developer console makes it clear that Amazon is well aware of this.

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