Google is expected to announce the details around its Home product tomorrow. You should expect some clear indications about how Google plans to compete against Amazon’s Alexa in the home-based voice assistant market. Here are four things to look for and what they will mean for the competitive landscape:
- It’s about more than the Home
- Integration with Other Apps Used Throughout Your Day
- Integration with Visual Media
- The Price Point Question
1. It’s about more than the Home
Google’s strong suit in consumer attention is its stronghold for desktop search and Android operating system for mobile. These are clear advantages over Amazon and Google is likely to stress that it can serve you at home, work and on the go. The question Google is likely to pose to consumers will be whether they are looking for an assistant that is always with them or simply a media and smart home control hub for the home. Google is going for the former and suggesting you get the latter as a package deal.
2. Integration with Other Apps Used Throughout Your Day
Google is also a mobile and desktop app powerhouse. Google Maps knows where things are in the physical world and Waze knows your typical commuting routes. Google calendar knows your appointments and Gmail Contacts can connect you to people through email, text and phone. The recently announced Allo app is a digital assistant for your phone that likely will mimic Google Home and enable learning and persistence across devices and places. All of these interconnected apps may be confusing at times, but tying together so many functional benefits could be a great advantage. Google will certainly position it that way.
3. Integration with Visual Media
Voice-first computing is an important shift in how we interact with devices, data and media. It opens up new opportunities and convenience as Alexa has demonstrated. However, Google is likely to say that being trapped in a voice world and then having to shift to another platform for visual content is inconvenient and too limiting. The integration with Chromecast to ask Google Home to display visual content or bring up similar media on an Android mobile device should be a credible differentiator. Amazon is still working on its Alexa integration with Fire TV and that platform has far less penetration than Chromecast and Android; not to mention that Alexa doesn’t have the leading mobile smartphone platform globally.
4. The Price Point Question
Amazon set the pricing umbrella for the market with its $179 Echo price. Early indications from Google suggest the Home device will likely come in around or below that level. However, Amazon shook up the pricing debate recently by setting a sub-$50 price for the Echo Dot. The sound quality may not be as strong as the original Echo, but it provides full access to everything Alexa can deliver at less than one-third the price. On the surface, the idea is to make the devices inexpensive enough to place one in several rooms throughout the house. Google Home’s introductory video suggested something similar but you could easily spend over $1,000 to outfit your main living areas and bedrooms at a $150 or higher price point. Amazon solved that problem with the lower priced Dot as an accessory.
The question tomorrow will be whether Google plans to be aggressive on pricing in order to establish market share. As a recent Wired article suggested, Google is focused on consumer attention. The company’s strategy is to be everywhere consumers are and that is why so many of its offerings ranging from search and Gmail to Android and Waze are free to use. That pervasive presence enables Google to maintain the world’s largest advertising business and provides options for future product lines. If Google Home arrives at a sub-$100 price point, you can assume the company is focused on rapid penetration not for the sake of driving revenue, but instead to support its broader ecosystem of consumer touch points.
Let the Games Begin
Amazon created the market with its Echo and Alexa Voice Service and has built an impressive lead in terms of millions of users and thousands of skills (i.e. apps). Google Home looks like the first credible competitor. Apple is working hard to catch up. Let the games begin.