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At the recent Google I/O 2017 conference, Google announced several enhancements to its smart home speaker, Google Home. Despite being quick to introduce new features, Google is playing catch-up with Amazon in terms of product functionality. However, Google is starting to show that it can differentiate against Amazon by leveraging its existing Android ecosystem to provide certain functions such as visualization. Amazon, meanwhile, depends on the new Echo Show device to offer such capabilities.

Google Home's enhancements are renewing enthusiasm for the smart home

Google is determined to gain ground in the smart home sphere. Its quick response to Amazon's recent launch of Echo Show serves as an example of its determination. To catch up, it has introduced several new Google Home features, intensifying the battle for supremacy among AI assistants to secure user loyalty in the smart home. The enhancements include

  • proactive assistance notifications to communicate to users reminders, traffic problems, and flight updates that may affect their schedule

  • hands-free voice calling in the US and Canada to any mobile or landline for free

  • Bluetooth support to stream music direct from Android and iOS devices (the latter thanks to Google Assistant's new iPhone integration)

  • visual responses to queries via any Android-powered screen.

These improvements not only bring new functionality to Google Assistant, but also show Google's advantage over Amazon in terms of its wider device ecosystem and deeper penetration. Whereas Amazon has to introduce new devices into the home such as Echo Show to facilitate visual responses to specific queries, Google can take advantage of devices already present. For example, Google Home can now send visual information such as map directions and calendar itineraries to the user's Android phone, tablet, or TV via Chromecast.

Furthermore, the integration of new features into Google Assistant's multi-user voice recognition capabilities will enhance and personalize the whole smart home experience because Google Assistant can respond to the user's queries in a more intelligent way based on who is speaking. Google doesn't like lagging behind Amazon, but Google Assistant's ability to recognize the unique voice signature of each user is making Google Home superior to Amazon Echo, as Alexa is not able to identify members of the household individually yet. By overcoming one of the common limitations that AI assistants face today, Google is a step closer to providing the ultimate personal experience at home.

Ovum believes new product features will bring satisfaction to existing customers, attract potential customers with a more compelling message, and enhance the stickiness of the entire Google device ecosystem. The frequency of enhancements is accelerating the growth process of AI home assistants, renewing enthusiasm across the market. Vendors and SPs seeking to boost their smart home strategies need to quickly adapt to the new normal, where AI assistants are more proactive and capable of responding to queries visually.



Mariana Zamoszczyk, Senior Analyst, Consumer Services

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