Is Amazon Dreaming of Challenging IBM’s Watson?


Dec. 4 2020, Updated 10:53 a.m. ET

Alexa gets medical skills

Amazon (AMZN) recently partnered with health information services provider WebMD Health (WBMD) to help Alexa users quickly get answers to their medical queries. Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google Search has been a popular site for people seeking health-related information such as treatment recommendations for a disease or side effects.

Integrating WebMD’s skills into Alexa means users of the voice assistant could conveniently search and access medical answers through Alexa-enabled devices such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Fire TV.

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Alexa and Watson’s paths are likely to cross

Google may suffer a decline in health-related traffic to its search service because of the Alexa–WebMD integration. IBM (IBM) could also feel the heat. Amazon has largely focused Alexa on the consumer market while IBM mostly pursued enterprise budgets for modern IT with its cognitive computing technology, Watson

However, Alexa and Watson could see their paths cross in the healthcare market. IBM has leveraged Watson to help physicians make better treatment decisions, especially staying current with new discoveries on the treatment of various diseases.

With more medical information and a bit of fine-tuning, Alexa could go for the same market to help Amazon break its overreliance on e-commerce revenues. The bulk of Amazon’s $136 billion revenues in fiscal 2016 came from e-commerce. The chart above shows Amazon’s annual revenue trend.

Can Alexa keep competitors at bay?

For now, Amazon is busy packing more consumer-oriented skills into Alexa to help it gain dominance as the standard interface through which IoT (Internet of Things) devices are operated. Amazon is also working to fend off competition from Google and Apple (AAPL) in the home automation hub market.


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