The coming ubiquity of home assistants – choose wisely!

As I’ve written before, I am very bullish on the inevitable adoption of home assistants in most homes. After seeing my parents’ new Comcast remote with voice recognition, and then watching the Amazon Echo in action at a friend’s house, I knew this was a game-changer.

There’s been a flurry of announcements in the past few weeks introducing new devices and added features, with the lion’s share coming from Amazon. Here is a sampling:

Google is reportedly working on a screen-equipped Amazon Echo Show competitor – Business Insider

Google is working on an Echo Show competitor – Business Insider

Amazon announces new Echo devices for the whole home – Business Insider

Amazon’s new Fire TV gives Alexa one more place to live – Wired

NFL’s Amazon deal could be test for more streaming games – The Los Angeles Times

No matter who you are, Amazon wants you to be using Alexa – The Washington Post

Amazon’s New $99 Echo Is Part of Its Quest to Continue Dominating the Voice-Assistant Race – Slate.com

It seems inevitable that these will soon become ubiquitous, in much the same way that TVs entered the home in the 1950s and 1960s, or the phone message recorders did in 1980s. But will your choice of device condemn you to a Google-centric or Amazon-centric household?

My take has always been that technology companies see these devices as a means to get a foothold in your everyday life, connect you to their ecosystem of interconnectivity, and have direct access to your living and buying habits, in an effort to grow their databases and deliver advertising. They understand that the big bucks will not come from you buying any devices themselves, but from them selling advertising data to those trying to get your attention.

It’s an old joke in the TV industry that programs are just to fill the space between commercials, and that same idea applies to the new technology invading your homes, cars, phones and apps. When you think about it, who has the most access to your lifestyle habits? I would certainly put Google, Amazon and Apple in that category, but would also urge you to not ignore Facebook, the 800-lb. gorilla in this space. I will be watching carefully as to how they position themselves in this increasingly crowded arena. Will they attempt to sell hardware, software or platforms?

This is a look at the obvious players, but I guarantee that others will be stepping up, and they will either succeed as upstarts, or get acquired. I could list those already in that category, but most know about them. Which brings me to the looming question that remains to be answered… Will these devices be interoperable, or will they remain siloed? Microsoft and its Windows operating system, and Google with the Android OS, both work (mostly) well with others, and reaped those rewards, while Apple’s iOS pretty much sticks to iPhones and Macs . But will Alexa speak to Cortana at some point? Or will technology behave like 7-year old boys in the back seat of a car, continually fighting for supremacy and causing frustration for all?

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