In my time with Google Home, I’ve been thinking about personal assistants in general, and Google home specifically. As a man of many devices, I can be found using Google, Siri, or Cortana at the drop of a hat. Later this week, I’ll be adding Alexa to my repertoire. Actually, technically I have already added her, since my Kindle Fire added it as an update, but I’ll be adding an Echo device very soon.
Which got me to thinking about the Echo and the Google Home and their relationship with me and my family. You’ll notice up above, I mentioned Alexa coming to my Fire tablet as an afterthought, but when you think about it, it’s a big deal. Suddenly a tablet that was eally only good for buying and consuming media gets a whole other dimension added to it, through just one update. But it remains an afterthought. Why is that?
You had to be there
I wonder if an assistant that is not always listening for my commands from wherever I happen to be is as valuable today? The Google Home is brand new, and spoiler alert for the review – it’s a 1.0 product. But the Echo family has been around for years now and is a pretty robust ecosystem all to itself. Or at least I hope it is, but stay tuned for that editorial. But the fact that you don’t have to be at (in Cortana’s case) or hold (in Siri’s case) a device and get things done is a pretty powerful concept, and I wonder how Microsoft and Apple will get by, at least for now.
You can access Siri from anywhere with a watch, phone, tablet, or computer, and you can access Cortana from a phone, tablet, or computer. You can even access them hands free to a certain extent from those devices. But neither of them are designed to work like an Echo or a Google Home. Essentially, you are meant to be using the device to which you are talking, rather than have it passively await your command.
No hints nor rumors have been whispered about Apple or Microsoft expanding their ecosystems with such a device. Much like VR, I suspect Apple is still waiting for the reviews to come in on whether they’re valuable. But soon both companies will be considered late to the game or perhaps too late. To be frank, that’s a position with which both have some familiarity, but it’s not an enviable position, to be sure.
Google’s position on the personal assistant is particularly aggressive and practically requires a Home device. With the ability to share information between Assistant-enabled devices (which will be increasingly more common), Google is building a network of always listening-always helping technology to run your life. That cannot end with your phone or computer. It needs to be everywhere if it is meant to succeed.
I’m not so sure Microsoft and Apple are trying to be quite that aggressive, at least this early. Siri has been in a holding pattern for some time now, and Cortana doesn’t have the mobile penetration to be the ecosystem Microsoft probably wants it to be. Even if Microsoft did release a standalone device, it would find itself – once again – at the bottom of a pile already occupied by two other companies with a head start. Only if Microsoft can fast track a device like this will it have a chance to break in – assuming that chance is not already lost.
Apple on the other hand has the type of brand loyalty that it can probably take its time coming to market. But with Apple trying to be more of a service-oriented company, it makes perfect sense for Apple to join the fray. Apple’s latest money-maker is, after all, Apple Music. What better way to get people to subscribe than to come out with a standalone, great sounding, voice controlled music box?
So, what we’re left with is the well-established Amazon Echo, Google’s first attempt at a similar product, and two others who have the backbone – the assistants themselves – but varying degrees of stake in such a device. And the window is closing quickly on those last two. Once Google gets the Home sorted out and working as well as Amazon, this two-horse race is over.
But what do you think? Should Apple or Microsoft get in on this game? Does one have more of a reason than the other to climb aboard? Sound off below in the comments and let me know what you think. Love to get a conversation started on what Apple or Microsoft could bring to the table.