As usual, Amazon pre-empted Google’s upcoming event tomorrow with a raft of new product announcements last week such as the new Echo Spot, Echo and Echo Plus. But, Google will get a day this week to spotlight its own product advancements. Here are a few things to look for specifically related to voice and AI.
#1 Google Home Mini
Amazon’s biggest hit in voice on the device front is the Echo Dot. The price point below $50 that occasionally dipped down to $35 helped to dramatically increase unit sales and solidify Amazon’s smart speaker market share lead. Google is now expected to release a comparable $50 product called the Google Home Mini. In fact, the device showed up for a short while this morning for pre-order on Walmart.com according to DroidLife. Ship date is expected to be October 19th. This should help Google drive up market share in Australia, Canada and France in advance of an Amazon Echo announcement. We will assume this prediction is 100% likely.
#2 Google Wireless EarBuds
Google is battling with Amazon on the smart speaker front, but is also turning its attention to Apple for wearable personal voice assistant access. The target that Google is trying to catch is AirPods. 9to5Google had a post in August about references to “Bisto” in the new Android code. Others have surmised that this refers to earbuds with Google Assistant onboard but they may be tethered unlike their Apple counterparts. AirPods have been popular and on backorder continually since launching in late 2016. Manufacturing earbuds with onboard intelligence is complex, but Google should have had time to work out its manufacturing and supply chain needs. Plus, manufacturing a tethered set of earbuds is less complex because you don’t have to duplicate all of the components in two devices. We are placing a 85% likelihood on a Google product to compete with AirPods.
#3 Pixel Phone with New Google Assistant Features
Pixel will undoubtedly be the star of the show, but its co-star is likely to be Google Assistant. There will surely be some people gushing over camera specs but the cool demos will most likely involve some sort of voice interaction. Look for demos of seamless transitions between interactions on Pixel and Google Home. Also look for interactions that maintain context. This is a key differentiator of Google Assistant today over rivals from Apple and Amazon. Doubling down on either situational or personalized context would make that differentiation even more clear. Likelihood of demos highlighting voice interaction = 100%. Expectation for continuity between Pixel and Google Home interactions 80%. Something that goes deeper around context persistence is probably closer to 60%.
#4 Google Assistant Coming to Chromebooks
9to5Google had a report over the weekend that showed Chromebook support for a Google Assistant app. That means Google Assistant is coming to Chromebooks. In this area Google is competing against Microsoft’s Cortana which claims 145 million monthly active users. Most of that use is almost certainly on desktop. So we can see Google is battling a three front war with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. It may not be the leader in any of those sectors but still become the overall leader by having a compelling solution in the living room, in the ear, on the phone and on the desktop. That could be an advantage by providing the most comprehensive offering. The risk is that it will be spread too thin and not excel in any area. We are placing Chromebook support by Google Assistant as 90% likely.
#4 New Google Home Country Launches
Google is playing catch-up in the U.S., UK and Germany but is out in front of everyone in Australia, Canada and France. Expect Google to try and gain first mover advantage in more geographies. First up? Japan. This was already announced as coming soon in May and Amazon just made a coming soon announcement for Alexa in Japan. Amazon has a penchant for attempting to pre-empt specific competitor announcements so the appearance of the Japan announcement this week suggests that Google is ready to launch. Expect pre-orders to be available tomorrow with a future launch date for developer tools.
However, Google won’t stop there. Also likely announced will be Korea. Google Assistant just announced Korean language support and the next logical step is to bring Google Home to the country. The other big target may be India. Bixby and Alexa are setting the stage for wider support in India and Google could come in with both an English language model tuned for Indian accents and Hindi support. That would be a big move on the global stage and set Google up to exceed Amazon Echo shipment volumes in the near future. Japan and Korea announcements are expected to be 80% and 60% likely respectively. An India rollout is no more than 50% likely.
#5 New Google Assistant Languages Supported
Finally, we should look for indications around Spanish and Portuguese language support. These may come first with Google Assistant and be followed by Google Home. Both Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese were announced as coming in 2017 so release dates would make sense. Spanish in particular is the world’s second most spoken language so any move on that front would be notable. However, the regional and dialect differences are likely to slow this roll out as the language models are tweaked to country-level specificity. The likelihood for Spanish language support is probably in the 65% range with offerings for countries other than Spain in 2017 only in the 30% range.
Rumored Products that We Don’t Expect to See this Week
There are two prominent product rumors that we don’t expect to see fulfilled this week. The first is a high end smart speaker. We reported on a rumor for the Google Home Max last week, but with all of Google’s other ambitions, the Google Home Mini and expansion to new countries, we assume this was a lower priority. The other rumor we don’t expect to be fulfilled is the introduction of a new Google Assistant device with a screen. Given Google’s experience with Android tablets this could be introduced as a tablet with a stand. However, I assume the process of integrating far-field microphones, speakers and a new housing and then setting up manufacturing and supply chain partnerships would simply be too long to have met this Holiday device release cycle. Look for this voice assistant-with-screen device in 2018 and Google Home Max may never arrive. The real wild-card would be if the Sonos announcement tomorrow included Google Assistant support and Amazon was left out.