Guess what? Apple is late to another party. This one is the so-called home automation and interactive speakers as exemplified by Amazon’s Echo with Alexa. That was followed up by Google’s Home, and now Microsoft’s back into ‘me too’ mode with the Samsung built Invoke device.
Same old same old? Or, something new?
All these technology companies play leap frog and musical chairs, often at the same time. The single most obvious component in the action is this: Apple is late to the party. Again.
Amazon, Google, Microsoft (and to a certain extent, Samsung) think the home is the next great frontier and each company has a foot in the door with a device that listens to commands, responds with action or information, plays music, and controls a few devices here and there.
The unqualified leader is Amazon, which reportedly sold a few million Echo units last year to give it the top spot and one of the more successful new product introductions in a few years. Of course, Apple sold more Apple Watch at a higher price point with more profit but that’s considered a failure by members of the technorati elite, so, go figure.
As expected, Microsoft’s Invoke (a stupid name) isn’t made by Microsoft. It’s a Samsung product which features Harmon Kardon (owned by Samsung now) speakers and a more modern aesthetic with a nifty mesh grill; available in blackish and silverish.
Microsoft’s contribution to Invoke is Cortana, the company’s digital personal assistant rival to Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and maybe one day, Samsung’s Bixby. And, as expected, Invoke will do much the same as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri and control various and sundry devices, play some audio parlor tricks, connect to Skype, check traffic, read the news, play music, blah, blah, and more blah. Oh, and 360-degree sound.
Only Microsoft knows when Invoke will get released and how much the device will cost, but the product segment is in its infancy. Amazon has the lead but numbers are mere guesstimates. Amazon says millions. Google doesn’t say. Microsoft says 145-million people have Cortana already.
Meanwhile, Apple, always late to these kinds of parties, already has Siri running on about 1-billion devices so I wonder whether there is a growing need for such a device, but Apple is a hardware company, and this is a hardware device, so a Siri Speaker or Siri Box or Siri Home won’t surprise me.
Meanwhile, we should note that none of these companies are sitting ducks, and what they’re doing is mostly garden variety moving target. They’re not standing still in a market that doesn’t yet show signs of having legs (great phrase, right?). Amazon upped the ante with Echo Show, a tiny touchscreen device with a camera. So far, most of these devices do– or, promise to do– much the same thing. Become the controls for your home while tracking what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with Amazon already moving two products with cameras into this nascent market, watch what you do.
All this reminds me of netbooks for the home.