AWS Lex Can be a Strong Contender in the Conversational Platform Space

AWS Lex was one of the most relevant additions to the AWS platform last year and one that is getting a lot of attention from developers. Lex is a platform that enables the implementation of conversational interfaces that can be used from bots and third party client applications. Powered by the same deep learning stack behind the popular Alexa service, AWS Lex can become a force to reckon with in the conversational platform market.

Lex is entering a highly competitive space that already includes incumbent services such as Google’s, Facebook’s Microsoft’s LUIS, IBM’s Watson Dialog Service as well as a few innovative starts like Semantic Machines. To some extend, the release of AWS Lex completes the picture of the big five contenders in the conversational platform market: IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon. From the perspective of the competitive landscape, AWS Lex has some very unique advantages as well as some tangible limitations.

Unique Advantages of AWS Lex

1 — Voice Interface: AWS Lex does a phenomenal job enabling the implementation of bots that can use voice and text interfaces interchangeably. The support for voice bots seems superior than the other incumbent conversational platforms in the market which are mostly focused on text interfaces.

2 — AWS Lambda Integration: AWS Lex relies on the Lambda serverless computing stack to implement “fulfillments” which are actions that need to be triggered based on a specific intent. Currently, Lambda is by fat the most widely used and most technologically advanced serverless computing platform in the market which brings some indirect advantages to the Lex service.

3 — Alexa Skills Ecosystems & Connectors: AWS Lex can indirectly benefit from the massive number of Alexa Skills which can be adapted as Lex’s Fullfillments. Also, AWS Lex already includes a series of serveless connectors for SaaS systems sch as Salesforce, Marketo or ZenDesk which are a unique assent to the platform .

4 — Developer and Partner Communities: Without a doubt, AWS’ developer and partner communities are a competitive differentiator for Lex and one that will be hard to match by most of the incumbents in the space. At the moment, only Microsoft counts with developer and partner ecosystems that can compare with AWS’

Some Challenges for AWS Lex

AWS Lex is an incredibly strong first iteration of conversational platform. However, despite the robustness of the product, there are still some challenges that should be considered:

1 — Lack of Messaging Platform: Facebook has Messenger, Microsoft has Skype, Google has Allow and Amazon has….well…Echo. The lack of a messaging runtime that acts that the default distribution channel can be a limitation for Lex bots in the long term. Obviously, Echo’s customers are a relatively small population compared to Facebook Messenger’s or Skype’s user base.

2-Last to Market: Despite its attractive feature set, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that AWS Lex has been the last of the incumbent conversation platforms to enter the market and has some catch up to do with companies such as Facebook or Microsoft.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.