Google Enters Your Home and Divides a Fragmented Market - Now What?
Not everyone is comfortable with digital assistants. Apple’s Siri is largely underused, and the whole experience is awkward and clunky. Amazon's Alexa managed to change that. The hugely successful Echo, transformed the market. But Amazon now has competition.
Google Knocks at Your Door
Google Home has entered the tech battle for your living room just in time for the holiday season. A voice-controlled smartphone speaker called Google Home will be available on November 4th for $129. The announcement will be of particular interest to those who bought one of Google's Chromecast dongles.
Anyone who embraced home automation will be able to integrate their Philips Hue lighting, Nest thermostat, and Samsung Smart Things and control their homes by merely speaking. Google friendly YouTube Music and Google Play Music will also be voice-controlled, in addition to Spotify, Pandora, and iHeart Radio.
Apple products (iTunes, Apple Watch) and Amazon products (Prime Video, Prime Music) are predictably absent.
Google has considerable advantage over its competitors given advances in machine learning and nearly 20 years of personal data gathered. This is not to depreciate Amazon’s advantages: Amazon’s head start definitely caught other tech titans napping.
The real question is, Are you ready to have Goole Home at your beck and call, commanding it to play your favorite songs while you wash dishes or get ready for work? Before answering the question, consider some common issues raised against this technology.
Don't Tell Me How, Just Do It!
There is an unignorable argument that this latest trend will merely make us more reliant on technology. Early adopters will be giddy with excitement at controlling everything with a voice-controlled tech gadget, yet many will find it unnecessary and further evidence of tech making us dumber and lazier.
Paradoxically, there is a wealth of specialized knowledge that goes into making us “lazier” that is largely unrecognized and underappreciated by the everyday user. We plug something in and just expect it to work.
Perhaps if we took an interest in the product design, coding, and computer science that dominates our lives, we’d have more control over the process. Right now, the consumer demands that products be Better, Faster, Easier — "I don’t care how!"
In-home Unity Is a Priority
The point about integration is crucial since it was the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption. Google, Apple, and Amazon would all prefer you to buy their products for obvious reasons, but that competition comes at a cost.
Gartner advises that 5.5 million new things are being connected to the Internet every day. The total number will move from 6.4 billion this year to 20.8 billion by 2020. If you lock customers into discrete and detached tech universes, it’ll pose tremendous problems in the long-term.
To bring this issue down to Earth, imagine that your fridge, toaster, and washing machine all operate on disassociated services. Therefore you need to download different software for each product, pay separate bills, and call in various companies for different customer service issues.
Although this isn’t much different to what happens now, when you consider that in addition you’ll be forced to buy most of your products from one company over the other to ensure compatibility, severely limiting your options, our future-selves may not be so tolerant.
An attempt to lock users into proprietary home appliances is not in the best interest of customers.
Privacy in the Home
In the laundry list of concerns are those of the privacy-minded. Users are already thinking twice about inviting the largest tech companies into their homes with an always-on microphone and camera that could expose our most intimate space.
What Are Your Thoughts?
I’m curious to learn your opinions.
Are you ready to throw caution to the wind and purchase Wi-Fi-connected, voice-controlled speakers vying for control of your home? And if yes, who would you rather (Apple, Amazon, or Google)? Or are you waiting to see what Apple will bring to the table?
Let me know your thoughts about home automation and the implications by commenting below.