Laptop With Alexa Built In

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Alexa is everywhere today from refrigerators to bathroom mirrors, and now on Windows 10 computers, Amazon’s voice assistant can teach Microsoft Cortana a few things. But more often than not, Alexa feels out of place on a laptop, where strangers still stay and try to find her way abroad.

Laptop With Alexa Built In

Laptop With Alexa Built In

That’s my assessment after a week of using the new Acer Spin 5, the first computer with Amazon Alexa pre-installed.

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Acer and other Windows PC makers are using Amazon’s virtual persona as a selling point for Windows 10, trying to breathe new life into the traditional PC market. HP, ASUS and Lenovo have announced Alexa integration with machines including desktops and laptops, but Acer just unveiled its new Spin convertible laptop, the first notebook to ship with Alexa. The rollout, which began last week, is the first step in Acer’s plans to integrate Alexa into its network of PCs.

These integrations of Alexa and Windows PCs are the result of partnerships between Amazon and PC makers. They separate Microsoft and Amazon’s efforts to make Alexa and Cortana work together. Windows PCs are no longer a growing market, but with Microsoft claiming more than 600 million monthly active Windows 10 devices, traditional PCs still represent a large potential market for Alexa as Amazon competes with Google Assistant. Apple Siri and others.

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What does Alexa look like on PC? Naturally, I bought the 13.3-inch Acer Spin 5 on Amazon for $799, and when I opened the box, Acer immediately confirmed that Alexa was inside. The packaging labels the device as “Amazon Alexa Enabled” with a prominent logo. At the bottom of the keyboard, Alexa gets more important features than the classic Intel sticker.

To me, at least that suggests a tighter integration of Alexa functionality into the machine. But from the start, the experience felt less than the natives.

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After launching the Spin 5 and letting Cortana guide me through the installation of Windows 10, I came to the desktop expecting to see Alexa on the taskbar or on PC, maybe even in an animated video. Introducing Alexa on Windows PCs Amazon will offer custom Alexa on screen-enabled devices.

Instead, the only sign of Amazon’s presence is the pre-installed Amazon Shopping app on the Windows 10 taskbar. Priority, I guess?

It was only after I clicked on the Windows icon to bring up the Start menu that I found Alexa pre-installed as promised, but almost hidden in a long list of apps.

Laptop With Alexa Built In

From there, the process is pretty simple. Logged in to my Amazon account. Alexa downloaded the update and appeared as an icon in the system tray.

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(Amazon notes in its FAQ that “other compatible Windows 10 devices use software management tools to help install Alexa on the computer when you first set up your device.” Currently, Alexa is not available to download for Windows 10 yet. In addition to the software, Amazon and PC makers form a partnership devices reached.)

The first few times I said “Alexa” the computer didn’t respond, but after messing with the microphone settings in the Windows control panel and making sure the “Wake Word” setting was enabled on Alexa, I said “Alexa” and heard a familiar bling” sound, then a full on taskbar indicating that Alexa was listening. Look for the Alexa app icon.

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From there, the experience is similar to using Alexa on other third-party devices. Alexa response was slightly delayed compared to the experience with Amazon’s Live Echo device. And Alexa doesn’t respond convincingly, requiring me to crank up my volume to be heard by the computer’s microphone array more than I’d like on an Echo device.

But as detailed in this Amazon chart, Alexa can do everything on a Windows PC that can be done on an Echo device, from music to shortcuts to third-party capabilities.

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Having already enabled controls for my other Alexa devices, I was very impressed that I could easily control the smart bulb from Alexa on a Windows PC without installing anything extra. This is especially useful for Alexa home users on PC and a viable solution for those who don’t have other Alexa tools.

Microsoft’s Cortana is also the farthest from Amazon. Microsoft has begun to form the first smart home partnerships with various device makers, but my attempts to get Cortana to work with two TP-Link smart light bulbs backed by Microsoft’s voice assistant succeeded after hours of trying.

I can see the name of the bulb in the Cortana notebook and have followed TP-Link’s instructions to the letter, but Cortana won’t light the bulb from the computer. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, but in contrast to the vast number of files and videos on how to get help with Alexa smart-home integration, there’s very little online help for troubleshooting.

Laptop With Alexa Built In

Alexa has very limited integration with Windows 10 below. Cortana, on the other hand, allows Windows 10 users to open apps with voice, while Alexa, for example, lacks this capability.

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The visual experience of the Alexa app is very basic, similar to the Alexa app on smartphones, and I’m more impressed that the Echo Show often displays plain text rather than the excellent graphical interface of the screen or Echo Spot. It’s a missed opportunity right now, but something Amazon can improve on over time.

I contacted the Alexa team this week to confirm that this system or my experience in no way represented a malfunction.

“What you’ll experience is consistent with the regular Alexa experience on the Acer Spin 5,” an Amazon spokesperson explained. “Alexa on PC’s lets customers do thousands of things, and we’re excited to bring those capabilities to the PC. With Alexa, customers can access information, manage calendars, order food, check flight status, lock doors, manage homes. The intelligence sets clocks and alarms, Access tens of thousands of skills and more – without the hassle of manually accessing their computer.

Does Amazon plan to improve the experience over time, making Alexa on Windows PCs like the Echo Show? “Alexa is always getting smarter and learning new skills,” was the answer. “We aim to be compatible with all Alexa devices, but there’s nothing else to share the experience we saw today.”

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My big question is whether it really has a role for voice assistants on laptops and PCs, which provide time-tested calls from keyboards, mice and monitor panels. Phones and smart speakers are a different matter, but is it really worth having a conversation with Alexa, Cortana or any other digital personality when you open a search box and type?

So far I don’t have an answer and for that reason and above I don’t think Alexa integration is something to consider when choosing new Windows PCs. It will be interesting to see if Amazon cares enough about Windows as a platform to prove me wrong in future updates to Alexa on PC.

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Laptop With Alexa Built In

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