Four new features that make Google Home a better connected speaker than it was–but it still has growing pains, reports USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Talking Tech.
LOS ANGELES — OK, Google, if you really want to take on Amazon with a connected speaker, why not really show off your smarts?
Google Home debuted in 2016 to so-so reviews and respectable sales. But Home still paled in popularity to Amazon’s Echo, which has a 70% market share, according to market tracker eMarketer.
So Wednesday, when Google is expected to introduce new Home products, the company needs to really differentiate itself from Amazon, which just introduced an array of new Echo speaker products, says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Google needs to “show the connection between having Google in your pocket and your home, and how that can be more powerful than just having devices in the home.”
The game plan for Amazon is clearly to have the Echo speaker in every room of your home, whether that be the new $149 Echo Plus, which includes tools to control your smart home, or the mini $49 Echo Dot, for adding Alexa to any room. By asking its Alexa assistant to play music for us, tell us the time and help us re-order products, Amazon sees a way to bring its e-commerce platform to new heights.
Google is expected to introduce two new editions of the Home, a small, mini-version, like the Echo Dot, which briefly showed up on a Walmart.com pre-order page Tuesday, as spotted by Droid Life, and a larger version, with higher quality stereo sound. This larger product would be positioned against Apple’s entry into the market in December when it sells the HomePod, the home speaker that brings high-quality sound and the Siri personal digital assistant into the living room.
McQuivey thinks Amazon has already won the home assistant war, but that for Google to come back with a counter-measure, it should focus on what it does best: artificial intelligence. Thanks to the No. 1 search engine, Google, and its various other components, like Calendar, Gmail and Google Maps, Google knows where we live, what we do and how we live our lives better than any other company, for better or worse.
The speakers currently wait for “wake” words like “OK Google,” or “Alexa,” to get the Home and Echo to speak and reveal information.
McQuivey’s view: Google should go for broke. Instead of waiting for you to enter the room and ask a question in the morning, it should instead hear your feet approach and respond by greeting you with the time, temperature, the news headlines and a morning song.
“Whoever makes this move would come under scrutiny for privacy concerns, but users would realize it’s an improved experience when you don’t have to initiate the conversation,” he says. “This could showcase Google’s benefits and be a real game changer.”
Since launching last year, Google has added several improvements to Home. It can now make free phone calls to landlines and cellphones and can add events to your calendar, something it inexplicably couldn’t do at launch.
And while Google is far behind Amazon in the connected speaker race, it dominates in mobile, where its Android platform has an 85% market share, according to researcher IDC.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham.
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