Thanks to Amazon’s Alexa Skills Kit, it’s very easy for just about any third-party developer to enable the Echo to control their devices. Amazon’s free and largely self-service developer tools have been available for a while. Developers need Amazon only when they’re ready for the company to certify them as Echo compatible.
As a result, Amazon is already working with all of the smart-home products Google mentioned, plus many more. Want to dim the light? In addition to Philips Hue, you can use Cree Connected or LIFX light bulbs or Belkin WeMo light switches. Forgot to close the garage door? Echo can tell Chamberlain’s MyQ garage door controller to do it.
In my personal smart home, which is controlled by a Vivint smart-home control panel, I can use voice commands to do all these things as well as lock my doors and arm my security system. A number of DIY smart-home hubs—Samsung’s SmartThings, Nexia’s Z-Wave Smart Bridge, the Wink hub, and others—are also Alexa compatible.
Google Home will be compatible with several smart-home products and services, but Amazon’s Echo already supports all of these and more.
Who will win?
This race is much too early to call. Amazon has a significant advantage thanks to its two-year lead, but Google has the edge in terms of voice recognition and AI. It’s tie-in to its Chromecast product is another big point in its favor, although it could turn into a wash if Amazon does the same with its Fire TV devices.
Google Home costs $40 less than an Echo—you really don’t want to buy Amazon’s $130 Tap—but if you want multiple voice-control points throughout your home, it will be much cheaper to deploy a bunch of Echo Dots at $50 a piece (and less than that as long as Amazon’s buy-5-get-one-free deal lasts). And if you want a voice-controlled multi-room audio system, you’d be wise to wait to see what comes out of the Sonos/Amazon hookup announced a few months back.
One thing’s for sure: We’ll be able to make a much better recommendation as soon as we get our hands on a Google Home.
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