EE TV gets voice controls thanks to Amazon’s Alexa

Check what's on and set up recordings with your voice.

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While Vodafone has long abandoned its dreams of a TV service, rival network EE is pressing on with its strange Freeview-bundled-with-some-on-demand-apps box. The hardware now supports Alexa, Amazon's voice-enabled assistant, through an Echo or Echo Dot-equipped speaker. So you can ask, "Alexa, ask EE TV what's on tonight" and hear some suggestions from the Freeview-powered guide. The new Alexa "skill" also supports queries for specific channels and, more importantly, will let you set up recordings, regardless of whether the set-top box is on or in standby mode.

For EE, it's a neat trick. Amazon has long touted Alexa as a key part of its Fire TV and Fire TV stick, however those devices are for on-demand apps only. EE TV is designed to be a single solution for people who still like to tune in to live programming. Alexa, then, could be a valuable addition for people who are struggling to juggle both DVR recordings and VOD libraries. The problem, at least for now, is that the service requires an Echo speaker — with Amazon's Fire TV, you get a purpose-built remote in the box.

Amazon, of course, only cares about expanding the Alexa ecosystem. The company wants its voice-controlled assistant to be everywhere — smartphones, speakers, even washing machines. That proliferation will naturally expand the platform's user base and encourage third-party developers to create new "skills," which in turn will increase Alexa's functionality and encourage people to buy more Alexa-powered products. It's a smart strategy, and one that Google, Apple, Samsung and others have struggled to react to. The question, of course, is whether this will move EE TV units — probably not, but it's a nice gesture for Echo speaker owners.