AWS offers Alexa developers free cloud credits

Amazon wants to make extending its virtual assistant free for most developers

Developers interested in extending the capabilities of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant have some more free tools in their arsenal, thanks to a program the company announced Wednesday.

Developers with an active Alexa skill --  a service that expands the capabilities of the virtual assistant -- can apply for $100 in Amazon Web Services credits every month to help pay for what they’ve built. After that, they can receive up to $100 per month in additional credits if they incur usage charges for their skills.

The credits are meant to build on AWS’s existing Free Tier, which offers developers a small bundle of free services every month, but charges them for any usage that goes over those low caps. According to a blog post by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, the move is supposed to make it free for developers to operate most Alexa skills.

Those skills are key to expanding Alexa’s utility. While the assistant has a portfolio of capabilities built by Amazon, skills allow it to do things like provide users with the ability to order pizza, get information about their bank accounts and hear news reports from a variety of organizations.

Amazon has been working feverishly to expand the capabilities of its Alexa virtual assistant by integrating with third parties. Offering developers the chance to create skills for free might help the company attract additional capabilities and users, which will be key to competing in the crowded virtual assistant market.

The virtual assistant has more than 10,000 third-party skills to choose from, as of last count. This change may help increase that figure, while at the same time increasing AWS usage.

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