[GADGETS] Is There an ECHO in Here?
What’s better than the Amazon Echo (a.k.a. “Alexa”) digital home assistant? The answer can only be, “Amazon Echo and something to compete with it!” Competition spurs innovation and helps to discourage price-gouging; competition is the consumer’s best friend. So of course, I am pleased to see Echo get a new competitor. Read on for the scoop on Google Home...
Google Unveils Answer To Amazon Echo
Google Home is that new competitor - or will be, when it hits the market. Google told a swooning audience of developers and journalists at its annual Google I/O conference everything about Google Home - except when it’s going to ship and how much it will cost. Unfortunately, that is how nearly every product debuts these days.
We can deduce the likely price range of Google Home from the price of Amazon Echo: anywhere from $179 to about $215 depending on where you buy. The lowest price is Amazon’s price. Google may price Home a tad higher initially, if the company thinks it can sell Home as a better-performing device than Echo.
But it's likely the two devices will eventually be priced very near each other. And if history and market forces can be counted upon as reliable indicators of future developments, prices for both will trend downward, just as they've done for ebook readers, smartphones and other gadgets where competition and economies of scale work their magic.
Just like Amazon Echo, Google Home is a bluetooth speaker on steroids. It lets you use voice commands to make it perform an impressive array of tasks. Using a Wi-Fi connection, it will play your music, and fetch album notes from the Internet. It will change the temperature of your thermostat before you get home. It will add events or appointments to your Google Calendar and set reminders to go off hours or days earlier. It will read Bible verses aloud or order an Uber car. “And much, much more!” Amazon Echo touts over 900 functions, and it’s certain that Google Home will match virtually all of them, then add a few of Google’s own making.
Controlling home automation modules is one of the most important features of Amazon Echo or Google Home; these are personal digital assistants, after all, effectively the head butler or major domo of the digital household. Echo and Home work with the Nest family of smart thermostats and other home automation devices; Nest is owned by Google, so that may give Google an edge in developing new tricks for Home and Nest to perform together.
We Hear and Obey...
Google claims that Home is better at understanding spoken commands than Echo. I've not tried the Echo, but voice recognition on my (Google-powered) Android smartphone is amazingly accurate. Users can also ask a broader range of questions with reasonable expectations of getting useful answers; that’s because Home connects to Google’s vast knowledgebase of Google Search queries and relevant results.
While “OK, Google” will be the boring default “wake up” command that puts Google Home into “listen and act” mode, the device can be trained to recognize other spoken words for this and other purposes. “Yo, Goog!” may be a bit too informal; “Hey, Google!” is certainly within the bounds of possibility and taste.
Amazon Echo comes only in basic black, although you can dress it up in third-party “skins” or even crochet your own Echo case. Google Home will be available in a variety of colors and finishes, hopefully at no additional cost.
Bundled with Google Home will be Allo, Google’s almost-here instant messaging app that does more than just relay messages. Allo is to be released in Android and iOS versions this summer, and it’s destined for Google Home too. Allo’s machine-learning algorithms will help it answer your questions without leaving a conversation with other human beings. For instance, when three of you are discussing where to have lunch, one of you can ask Allo to find restaurants nearby that meet your group’s ever-narrowing criteria.
Resistance is Futile...
Yes, it all sounds like vaporware, a product that doesn’t exist but is announced anyway just to confuse the market and slow down the competition. Amazon has shipped over 3 million units of Echo since its debut about 18 months ago. Spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to make people hesitate before buying Echo is certainly part of Google’s plan. But the search giant is deadly serious about releasing Home and making it a ferocious competitor to Echo.
That’s because Google and Amazon are competing for the same prize, and that prize is much more than a small space on your coffee table for yet another “smart” device. What both companies want above all else is data about you, your family, and your household. That’s where the real money is. That’s why it’s so important to Google and to Amazon (as well as Apple and Microsoft) to get you and yours hooked on telling Home or Echo (or Siri and Cortana) everything you want, need, plan to do, and more. But these gadgets are undeniably fun, useful and helpful. As always, there are trade-offs in life.
Will you be assimilated? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 May 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [GADGETS] Is There an ECHO in Here? (Posted: 19 May 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved