You know what they say. Competition is a good thing, right? That’s what gives us choices and helps to prevent monopolies which drive up prices and inhibit innovation. Still somewhat unseen are the technology battles taking place behind the scenes to conquer your home. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and a gazillion and a half other tech companies want to be the vendor of choice for the technology that runs your home.
No two tech companies could be more different in their approach than Apple and Amazon. Both make hardware that helps you work, play, and communicate, but Amazon takes a different approach; much different thanks to the failed Amazon smartphone.
Take this example. Amazon sells devices that let you connect without using your smartphone, tablet, or notebook. Amazon’s Echo is a kind of wireless speaker and voice command device cylinder stuffed with microphones and run by a Siri-like persona named Alexa. The Echo, through Alexa, takes instructions to read news, stream podcasts, set alarms, make todo lists, play audiobooks, look up weather and traffic, and so on. Sounds a bit like Siri but Echo sits somewhere in your living room and waits for you to ask a question or give a command.
If Echo is a hub for Siri-like convenience then what is Amazon’s Echo Dot? Right now, not much, but it’s easy to see where Amazon is headed with these little devices. Living. Room. Control.
Echo Dot hooks up to home speakers and can play music or order an Uber. Think Airport Express but with ears.
Wait. There’s more.
Amazon Tap is like Echo but is battery operated so you can take it with you. Tap is named Tap because, unlike Echo and Siri on the new iPhones, you have to tap it to get it to listen, but it works much the same way as the tethered Echo and acts as a servant for information and a gateway into Amazon.
That approach differs somewhat from Apple’s forays into the home. HomeKit devices have not exactly caught the world on fire. After a few years of development Siri has remained barely usable and still cannot handle third party requests other than opening an app. Apple seems content on making devices that do more than just phone home to replenish your laundry detergent; handy perhaps, but a bit self serving. For Amazon.
Recently I bought a new car that has Apple’s CarPlay as standard equipment. While CarPlay isn’t exactly gee whiz technology of the future in a car today, it’s useful, familiar, and works great for iPhone users. But Apple hasn’t done much yet to set up a centerpiece to control the home. Siri isn’t there yet, regardless of where she resides; Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad. All those connected and controlled devices are coming and the fight between technology companies for a place in your home is here, but it’s more of a series of skirmishes than a war.