While the European Parliament elections were recently in progress, intense discussions were underway concerning the increase in global conflicts and confrontations. The Internet also has a history of great confrontations. Is the next war of platforms looming between Amazon and Google?
Voice-controlled assistants: The new competition among market criers
The competition for intelligent, voice-controlled assistants is now in full swing. After the initial commotion about the possibilities of the new voice technology has subsided, the value of these new companions is now no longer measured by the amount of hype they are given by the press. Instead, Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant must now prove their worth in the face of tough competition. The starting situation could hardly be more different: After the demise of the browser and console wars, are we once again on the brink of a battle of platforms?
The question of who will set the standards for the future with their market power is far from being answered. When it comes to hardware, Amazon is apparently in the lead. Although both companies do not like to show their hands, the online shipping giant has confirmed figures which suggest that by the end of 2018, Amazon had sold around 100 million devices
with the virtual assistant Alexa – mostly smart speakers, such as the popular "Echo", in countless variants. According to a study by the consulting firm RBC, Google sold around 50 million smart speakers
worldwide by the same point in time.
It is not quantity, but added value that is decisive
Yet, the number of activated devices represents only half the truth: At its developer conference ‘Google IO’, the company from Mountain View recently announced that, while it is lagging behind its rival Amazon in terms of smart speakers, the software of its in-house Google Assistant, on the other hand, is already available on more than 1 billion devices. This primarily includes smartphones on which the Google Assistant can be used as an app; the function is already pre-installed on Android mobile phones, for instance. Although Alexa is increasingly tucked away in microwaves, toilets or synthesizers
, we have to ask ourselves what added value the voice assistant, designed as a shopping and entertainment device, has to offer here.
Google has a much more favourable starting position in terms of usage scenarios. Embedded in a comprehensive range of services and functions from email to shopping, navigation and the appointment calendar, the search engine giant can offer an altogether different range of services. On its way to becoming a comprehensive and ubiquitous orientation, solution and comfort machine, the Assistant is a pivotal tool for Google.
Google is blowing its horn for the attack – but it is not going to war
The development of virtual assistants is therefore not necessarily resulting in a direct confrontation, and we will probably not be faced with a new platform war. The question of which provider can unite more third-party applications on its platform is no longer as important as it was with the mobile operating system. Rather, it will be up to us, the users, to answer the question of whether voice search in combination with artificial intelligence will produce individual solutions for a multitude of narrowly defined usage scenarios, such as Amazon's shopping service and music service, or whether the large-scale Google solution with its comprehensive technical infrastructure will assert itself to support human existence in all of life's circumstances.
Stephan Kopp is managing director at Plan.Net Performance.