So today Google finally had its big launch event and one of the devices on the dais was Google Home. Here are all the reasons why Google Home poses no real threat to Amazon’s established Alexa line of smart home devices.
Google Home does not boast a more impressive feature set.
When it comes to innovative tech, whoever succeeds in planting the flag and getting the first toehold has a huge leg up on any future competition. Google Home needed to offer an incredibly compelling case to get Alexa device owners to jump ship, and in that, it failed.
I generally avoid passing judgment on any new device or service before it’s shipping, because I know how easy it is to over-promise before a new device actually hits the market. I’m making an exception here because even if I assume Google Home will make good on every feature promised today, it’s not going to offer me anything better than I’m already getting from the Echos I already own.
It can be used to control HUE lights and Nest thermostats. Just like Alexa. It can offer news, weather, sports and traffic reports. Just like Alexa. It will have skil—oops, I mean “plug ins”. Just like Alexa. It has far-field speech recognition. Just like Alexa.
Are you seeing a common thread here?
Google has a long and embarrassing history of abusing consumers’ privacy. Does that sound like a company you’d invite to bring an always-on, always-listening device into your home?
OK Google records, stockpiles and analyzes your queries for marketing purposes by default.
Google has been scanning not only its own customers’ emails, but the incoming emails of people who use other email services, for years. In fact, they’re being sued over it as I write this.
And that’s just the very tippy-top of the Google privacy violation iceberg.
…on surfaces where we show ads, we use data to show you ads that are relevant and useful, and to keep our services free for everyone.
In other words, just as with every other Google device and service, your data will be gathered and shared with Google’s “trusted partners” for marketing purposes. And if you think “keeping our services free” hints that the Google Home service may eventually be ad-supported, I’d be hard pressed to argue with your suspicion.
Full disclosure: I use Gmail and many other Google services, but I do so with my eyes wide open and no expectation of privacy. When it comes to an in-home, always-on, always-listening device, I set the bar quite a bit higher.
But It Can Play Google Music!
Yes. In other words, it can stream music from Google’s own music service just like Alexa can stream music from Amazon’s own music service. I call that a draw at best, and given that I’ve been warning people away from the Google Play Store due to serious security concerns for years, LONG before Alexa came on the scene, I’d actually award the advantage to Amazon Music on this one.
But It Can Run A Google Search!
No, it can’t. Neither can Siri or Cortana. All of them only simulate a true Google search, and they do it by hiding most of the available result set from the user. When the search provider gets to decide which results to push to the top of the list, and the provider stands to make money by favoring certain results over others (like in the case of Google, for example), how much can you trust the results?
But It Offers Whole-Home, Synchronized Audio!
So will Alexa, when Sonos wraps up its current beta test of this exact same functionality via Alexa integration. But here’s where Amazon’s got Google Home beat: Sonos is the far superior audio system. Would you rather have a whole home full of music being played through Google Home’s itty bitty speakers, or Sonos’s high end audio devices?
But It Can Translate Foreign Languages!
Sort of. Via Google Translate, which is far from a perfect translator. To people for whom translation capability is very important, Google Translate isn’t good enough at it to get the job done. For everyone else, it’s a novelty and the same type of functionality is available via Alexa skills.
But It’s Cheaper!
On that point, you are absolutely right. But isn’t there some kind of saying about getting what you pay for?
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