For the smart home, the key developer partners are the makers of household devices ranging from lighting systems to refrigerators. There are currently about 250 devices that are certified to work with Alexa, and Amazon has encouraged rapid development of third-party applications with its open-systems approach and even financial incentives for some partners.
Apple’s Homekit, by contrast, has about 100 certified devices. And the reasons behind that gap show both the risks and the potential rewards of Apple’s approach.
The devices have to be made in special factories that are certified by Apple. A confidential Apple document obtained by Reuters lists more than 800 of these factories, but only a few specialise in home automation products.
Developers can ask Apple to certify an unlisted factory they want to use. But the limited selection means that device makers can’t always get the best prices or work with their preferred factories.
Alexa, by contrast, only requires smart home companies to write software code and submit it to Amazon for review. There are no special chips. To earn the “Works with Alexa” label -which isn’t required to function with Alexa but does help promote products on Amazon’s website - startups must have their products physically tested. Amazon does allow that to happen in a third-party lab, however.
Once those certifications are in hand, Amazon says it will decide whether or not a device gets the “Works with Alexa” label within 10 days.