Hands-on with the Amazon’s Alexa app for Windows 10 PCs

Amazon and several PC manufacturers have announced that Alexa would be coming to select Windows 10 computers by way of a new Windows Alexa app made by Amazon. I got a quick chance to try the app running on an Alexa version of HPs Pavilion Wave computer at CES.

Before getting into the app, it’s important to mention that many of the PC manufacturers that are integrating Alexa into their computers are going all-in with custom hardware in addition to including the new Alexa app for Windows 10. This isn’t just the inclusion of Alexa through an app that you trigger with a keyboard shortcut or mouse click. Alexa’s integration on PCs involves customized hardware that essentially lets the computer double as an Amazon Echo by way of far-field microphones, built-in speakers where you might not expect them, such as a desktop computer tower, and even LED light bars for visual Alexa indicators.

HP released their slick Pavilion Wave desktop PC last year but they’ll soon be releasing an Alexa specific version. The original Pavilion Wave comes with a speaker built into the top of the tower, but HP has added four far-field microphones and an LED light bar to the top to compliment the Alexa experience.

As for the Alexa app for Windows 10, it essentially takes the Alexa cards displayed in the Alexa mobile app and presents them on the Windows desktop. With each new Alexa request, a new card appears on top of a stack that can be scrolled to view past information and commands.

Requesting to play music through Alex on Windows 10 will bring up album art in the Alexa app. Along with the album art, media control buttons are also displayed but, of course, you can always control the music with your voice instead of the on-screen buttons.

Requesting information from Alexa will usually display additional information in the Alexa app, as well as an accompanying image. Asking for the weather will bring u a multi-day forecast.

There doesn’t appear to be any customization of Alexa that is specific to a Windows PC. You can’t ask to open folders, change Windows settings, or launch applications. It’s essentially the same Alexa experience you find on a Fire tablet, for example, just being displayed on a Windows PC.

The Alexa app on Windows is not a replacement for the mobile app. You actually still use the mobile app to configure certain Alexa settings of the PC, just like any other Alexa-enabled device you register to your Amazon account. The Windows app’s settings area allows you to set whether or not the device responds to a wake word and if it chimes when it hears the wake word. You can also set a keyboard shortcut for triggering Alexa, which is Ctrl+Shift+A by default.

Overall, the new Alexa app for Windows 10 is a minimum first step to making it easy to access Alexa through a PC. If you leave your PC on all the time, getting one with Alexa capabilities built-in would save you the need of having an Echo device on your desk. At the very least, it’s a great way to control music while working at a computer.

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