People in the Voicebot community skew toward technology enthusiasts. They are more likely than their neighbors to own an Amazon Echo or Google Home. But, there is always a question about whether a technology product will take hold among the larger population. The 4-5 million Echo devices sold in 2016 and the proliferation of Alexa-enabled devices at CES 2017 suggest a good foundation for growth.
Jimmy Fallon Demonstrates His New Alexa Skill
A better foundation for adoption is when a new technology becomes part of the culture. Enter Jimmy Fallon. He is the host of the top rated late-night television show in the U.S., The Tonight Show. Last week he demonstrated The Tonight Show skill and gave a whole lot of free advertising to Amazon.
What Does This Mean for Google
Google is already a cultural phenomenon. It is the dominant search engine and the name has become a verb in the English language. But, it is not widely associated with device-based virtual assistants by the public at large. Google Home came to market more than two years after Amazon’s Echo, it has less than 10% of the installed user base and only about 1% of the total applications for users. This situation may change and Google did announce Sunday that its Amazon Alexa voice assistant rival, Google Assistant, will be available this week to hundreds of millions of Android smartphone users. However, Google is playing catch up right now.
The situation is reminiscent of Google Android’s late start against Apple iPhones. It didn’t have many users and had very few apps, but over time it chipped away at Apple’s early lead and has since become the dominant mobile operating system worldwide. Apple was proprietary, restrictive on developer customization and was not available to third-party device manufacturers while Android was open, free and friendly to third-party OEMs. Google used these differences to its advantage. The challenge is that Amazon has largely adopted the Android strategy for this new market so Google will have to find other levers to press the advantage among consumers.
Amazon Is Winning the Mindshare Battle
Amazon is winning both the marketshare and mindshare battle around voice assistants. Google is currently being left out of the cultural conversation surrounding the technology. That will continue to hurt its near-term adoption more than Amazon’s lead in user base and applications. Consumers that want a shared experience around new technology are looking today to Amazon’s Alexa. Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin have made Alexa “cool.” It may be awhile before Google Assistant can claim that status, if ever.