Hosting Alexa Skills on AWS is Almost Free Now
Amazon has announced a program to subsidize the hosting of Alexa skills that use AWS Lambda and other AWS services and incur use charges beyond what is provided by the AWS Free Tier. Only developers having at least one skill live are eligible to apply.
Amazon’s promotion is aimed at making the costs of hosting an Alexa skill significantly more predictable for developers. Until now, the Amazon Free Tier allowed to run Alexa skills using AWS Lambda and Amazon EC2 without incurring any charges for up to one million AWS Lambda requests and 750 hours of EC2 compute time per month. Still, it can be pretty hard for developers to predict how successful their skills can be, or whether they will experience periods of higher usage with the related risk of incurring charges. Amazon's program includes a one-time $100 AWS promotional credit that is valid for 12 months, which is aimed to cover development costs, plus an additional $100 per month if their skills incur usage charge beyond the free tier limits. The offer includes not only AWS Lambda and EC2, but also other AWS services such as Amazon S3, DynamoDB, and CloudFront. This will contribute to the creation of more robust and advanced skills, according to Amazon.
It is worth noting that the Alexa platform does not yet support any direct monetization schemes, as it happens on for example Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, and it is still not clear what the company’s plans regarding this are.
Last month, Amazon announced that more than 10,000 skills were available for Alexa, with a 3x increase since September 2016. Amazon does not share sales figures for its Echo devices, but according to independent estimates, some 11 million units were sold through Dec. 2016. The rise in both the number of users and published skills may help explain why Amazon decided to provide promotional credits to developers. It is still true, however, that extremely successful skills could incur charges, if their AWS usage exceeds the free tier plus the $100 per month promotional credit.