Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home vs. Apple Homepod
As Apple is set to release the iPhone 8, another product in their lineup which has been pushed from the forefront is the Homepod - slated to be in the hands of loyal consumers sometime December 2017. In the meanwhile, Amazon and Google have been busy vying for marketshare in the ever crowded virtual assistant space. What will play out in the next few years is a story akin to Android vs. Apple, and will spark the open vs. closed ecosystem debate. This time however, there is a new player in the room, Amazon.
As the pioneer of the first mass distributed virtual assistant, Amazon definitely had a head start in the race having launched Alexa in the fall of 2014. Ever since Alexa saw mainstream adoption, competitors such as Google and Apple have been copying it with the Google Home having launched in November of last year. Apple, not wanting to be left behind is also joining (although with a more premium device @$349) vs. Amazon @$179 and @$49 for the Echo and Dot respectively and Google Home @$129 MSRP.
Adoption of any technology is reliant on price, and virtual assistants are no exception. With a price of <$50, the Amazon Dot became the favortie of stocking stuffers during last Christmas season and because of that Amazon has increased its market share to ~70% of all voice controlled speakers according to e-marketer as of May 2017.
To further increase reach, especially in the emerging markets, companies will need to further reduce price. A key component of that strategy is to make the software free or for a small license fee — similar to the Android strategy. One of these three companies is already doing that — Amazon.
In 2016 — Triby and Nucleus were one of the first companies that integrated in Amazon’s voice services into smart speakers of their own, however those came at a premium in price compared to Amazon’s own Alexa. What’s surprising now is that lower end companies such as Anker are now making speakers such as the Eufy which IS EVEN CHEAPER than the Dot — as of this writing one can purchase a speaker which has similar features to the Dot for just $30(a 40% discount!). This will surely usher in a new set of customers for the personal assistant space, especially in markets outside of the affluent United States. I can easily see $10 speakers in the future that connect to Amazon’s Alexa services provided by various no-name Chinese companies. This will significantly increase the penetration rate of virtual AI and help move the industry along the S curve.
Voice services rely on familiarity and consistency, just imagine having to remember multiple wake words for different rooms “Alexa” or “OK Google” or “Hey Siri”, it’s just too hard. So whoever captures the mindshare of consumers, will capture their household most likely. Alexa is surely winning that battle due to a high level of market penetration, and with services multiplying and prices falling, it’s just a matter of time before the platform becomes the platform of choice for both consumers and developers of Amazon’s Alexa “skills”. Also — Alexa is just one word, not two (OK Google, Hey Siri).
However, it’s not too late for Google and Apple. Google still dominates the online experience with connectivity to Google Calendar, Maps, and many other extremely useful services. As it expands it’s hardware lineup of beautiful Android phones (Pixel), and lightweight computers (Chrome) consumers might gravitate towards continuity with Google. The same can be argued for Apple, whereas the iPhone, MacBook and iPad ecosystem makes it so easy for users to access and update seamlessly across their devices.
The future of virtual assistants is still unclear, however over the past three years what has become clear is that there is an enormous appetite for these types of stand alone devices, and Amazon, Apple and Google are happy to oblige. Now it’s just up to the consumer to choose.