It’s undeniable at this point that the Echo is a massive hit for Amazon: the cylindrical device, a voice-activated digital assistant powered by the Alexa platform, may generate $11 billion in revenue for the e-commerce giant over the next four years or so, according to investment firm Mizuho (tip of the hat to Business Insider for surfacing that data).
Other tech companies want a piece of that delicious money pie. This past summer, Google unveiled Google Home, a stubby device that, like the Echo and Alexa, can answer questions and respond to simple commands. As with Amazon’s hardware, Google Home will also serve as the nexus of the so-called “smart home,” capable of activating (and deactivating) a range of appliances and devices. It’s scheduled to arrive later this year.
Given the scope of the competition, it’s perhaps no surprise that Apple is reportedly working on its own “Echo killer.” According to a new report in Bloomberg, this device will leverage Siri, Apple’s digital assistant that’s now a fundamental part of iOS and macOS.
Unlike Google Home and the Amazon Echo, though, Apple’s digital hub is firmly in the prototype stage. One of the potential designs includes facial recognition, which could help the device tailor its interactions to individual users. The eventual product will doubtlessly integrate with HomeKit, Apple’s “smart home” software.
For those tech pros interested in working within the Internet of Things (IoT), the proliferation of home-based digital assistants may prove a mixed blessing. On one hand, the popularity of the Echo and its rivals could speed the adoption of IoT hardware and software; on the other, a plethora of devices could eventually lead to fragmentation, which in turn could make the building of supported products that much more complex.
There’s also the possibility of “walled gardens” emerging, just as they did with mobile devices. Within a few years, it’s possible that IoT developers could find themselves setting up parallel pathways for product development: one that focuses on Apple-centric hardware and services, say, and another that hews to other standards or protocols.
But until Apple and Google actually roll out their hubs, and more SDKs hit the market, it’s hard to tell how this ecosystem will evolve. Whatever Apple comes out with, though, Siri will probably live at the center of it.