Could the smart assistant race be swaying to Google?

Amazon is in the lead, but announcements at CES could see momentum gathering in the Google offices, as the pair battle for market share in the fast emerging smart speaker space.

At the annual CES event in Las Vegas, Google has gone big. Marketing is prominent, announcements will be glorious and partnerships are starting to stack-up. The latest incident of back-patting has seen the internet search giant integrate its virtual assistant into speakers from a large number of manufacturers, including (but not limited to) Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, LG, Klipsch, Memorex, and SōLIS.

And the team are not stopping at speakers. Several manufacturers will be producing smart displays, featuring the Google assistant, it will also be plugged into your Android phone, with the option of downloading onto your iPhone. The assistant is also coming to Android Auto, where Google is working with auto makers to integrate the assistant directly into their cars. Over the next twelve months, the team is also working with the likes of Jaybird, JBL, LG and Sony to feature the assistant into headphones.

Soon enough, some might be able to operate without a smartphone. Your smart speaker is connected to the rest of your smart devices, while your car will automatically be plugged into your life, as will headphones. All devices, from your TV, to your smart display unit, will be able to have the functionality of a smartphone, as will (to a degree) your car and headphones. If you had a basic device which was only configured to watching video or playing games, you could run your life without a smartphone. Google could potentially cut the device manufacturers out of the value chain.

This is where we think Google is starting to gain an advantage in the smart speaker/virtual assistance space; it has more friends than Amazon. We’ve speculated before that Google and Amazon were only venturing into the hardware space to show the manufacturers there is a consumer appetite for the devices; a loss leader PR stunt to stimulate the market. The theory here is that the real win for Google and Amazon will be to have their virtual assistant in as many places as possible, focusing on the software and services revenues, but the electronics manufacturers needed a bit of nudging.

With more manufacturers entering the smart speaker space, the price point of the devices will come down, which will make them more attractive to consumers. There will also be consumers who are more confident in buying electronic goods from more traditional names. Finally, there will come a stage where smart speakers are the standard. With dozens of new products flooding onto the market, in partnership with Google, the Google virtual assistant will start to interact with a much larger number of consumers.

The more consumers Google is interacting with, the more influence its internet advertising model will have on the space. The more advertising there is, the more money Google has to develop both its hardware and software ecosystem, both of which will already be substantial. It might be a slow burner, but you can see how Google could gain the upper hand in this potentially lucrative space.

We have a feeling that Google will prevail, but that is far from an Amazon write-off. Amazon is one of the most powerful and influential brands in the world, led by one of the most innovative CEOs. Only a fool would categorically claim Amazon cannot take advantage of its current market leading position, but we have a Google hunch.

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