Amazon has expanded sales of its Echo smart speakers to the Netherlands. Alexa doesn’t speak Dutch, however. Instead, the voice assistant uses British English to communicate with users, with localized content and responses relevant to people in the Netherlands.
The international versions of the new Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers introduced by Amazon last month are both available for sale, at €100 and €60, respectively. There have been Echo devices in the Netherlands before, but until now, it was only one of the dozens that had to import them from other countries, usually Great Britain. The smart speakers have all of the same features as their counterparts in the United Kingdom, localized to the Netherlands. For instance, if a user asks Alexa, who is in the royal family, the voice assistant will refer to the Dutch royal family. When Echo smart speakers brought into the country are asked the same question, Alexa’s default was to list the British royal family instead. Amazon only opened up a Dutch website earlier this year, but selling Alexa-enabled devices doesn’t mean the language will be included any time soon.
Though Alexa doesn’t speak Dutch, Google Assistant and Siri both offer the language as an option. According to a Kantar survey last year, the appetite for Google smart speakers in the country has been evident since they arrived, with 5% of households in the Netherlands adopting one in less than five months. Unsurprisingly, Google Home dominated at the time, with Google Assistant adding Dutch language support in July 2018, the speakers shipping in the Netherlands in October 2018. At that time, only 1% of households had an Echo.
Amazon has been slow to add new languages in Europe, sticking to the most popular like German, French, and Spanish. As voice assistant-enabled devices become more common, the giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple have started to invest in additional languages and dialects. Amazon has focused more on Indian languages like Hindi and Hinglish, a mix of Hindi and English. Less populous European countries have yet to attract native language options for the major voice assistants. For people who want a voice assistant that speaks their native tongue, third-party options are usually the answer, such as MLS, which offers a voice assistant speaking Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Serbian, although not Dutch. How much that language lack will matter to Echo sales in the Netherlands remains to be seen, but it could be een groot probleem.