Google vs Amazon – Battle of the home.

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The time for Google to move is now.

  • Amazon is far from standing still in its battle to win the smart home meaning that Google really needs to pull its finger out before it suffers a defeat not unlike that suffered by Betamax at the hands of VHS.
  • Amazon is already miles ahead of Google when it comes to devices, with over 10m in the hands of users (compared to Google Home at I estimate, 1m), but it is not stopping there.
  • Last week, Amazon and Conexant announced the availability of the AudioSmart 4-mic development kit.
  • This is a piece of hardware that allows third parties to integrate both the far-field microphone technology that the Echo products use to hear the user as well as the assistant itself.
  • In essence it is an Amazon Echo Dot without the case, being roughly the same size and shape.
  • The idea is that third parties take the kit and integrate it into their own products to provide voice control as well as the ability to control everything else in the house.
  • Ecobee has already taken the plunge by integrating it into its own thermostat and I would not be surprised to see many others follow suit.
  • Amazon has been extremely welcoming to third party developers giving a lot of support as well as meaningful discounts for running their services on AWS.
  • The same cannot be said of Google as almost every developer I have spoken to has not been complimentary when describing the experience of trying to develop for Google Home.
  • I find this to be a big surprise because Google’s Android developer program has been huge and thriving for years.
  • This is why Google suffered such a resounding defeat at CES in January where Amazon Echo was everywhere and Google Home was barely to be seen or talked about.
  • Google must act very quickly as even though it has vastly superior product, it is at risk if being swamped unless it starts to materially improve the number of third party products which can be used with Google Home.
  • Google has its developer conference (Google i/o) on May 17th to May 20th where I will be looking for three things:
    • First, Developer love: Google needs to show creators of smart devices plenty of love and support when it comes to making their products work with Google Home.
    • Second, Google Assistant: Google needs to make the assistant available such that anyone who wants to deploy it on their device can do so easily.
    • Third, hardware: Google should make its microphone array available to anyone that wants to use it.
    • This is more important than one would think as the system needs to able to hear the user from far away even with background noise.
    • This requires some specialised microphones and is important when it comes to delivering a good user experience to ensure engagement and traffic generation.
  • I still think that smart home is Google’s to lose but unless there is real movement in this direction at Google i/o, I fear that by next year, the game will already be over.
  • Google’s outlook for 2017 remains pretty good but the shares still look fairly priced leaving me preferring Microsoft, Tencent and Baidu.

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