“You can run, but you can’t hide.”
That should be the motto for Apple and Google as they take their first steps towards tackling the so-called ‘connected home’, where elements of your house such as thermostat, locks, garage door will be connected to and controlled by personal computers and mobile devices.
Whether you willingly stick one to your face, add one to your car dashboard, or just keep it in your pocket, computers are going everywhere. And when you get home, Apple and Google want one that’s ready, responsive and integrated with your online activities more than any laptop could be.
Apple vs Google: Philosophical Differences
Apple’s Homekit announcement earlier this month at WWDC and Google’s purchase of Nest in January have put the connected home at the forefront of the digital conversation. However, Apple and Google have different visions for the connected home. This difference in philosophy is perfectly illustrated by their mobile strategies. Dan Rowinski articulated this contrast following WWDC for RWW:
“For Apple, the cloud is a means to an end—and that end is to keep you using and buying new Macs, iPhones and iPads.”
The same is true for the connected home. Homekit makes your iPhone and Mac more useful by connecting them to your thermostat, door locks, or garage door.
“Google, by contrast, isn’t interested in selling computers—not any more, at least. But it is intensely interested in computing. Because computing and the people that use those computers create the one thing that Google craves above all else: Information.”
For Google, we know that Information collection is inevitably about two things: advertising and commerce.
Don’t be distracted by the up-front cost; Google has never been about that one-time $300 purchase. Just like Google aims to reduce the cost of mobile devices by diffusing Android to multiple manufacturers going after different markets at different price points.
I find Google’s Nest strategy much more interesting than Apple’s hardware focus because of its implications for everyday e-commerce, when combined with other Google technology already available on mobile, such as voice recognition.
While Google owned Motorola, the MotoX was created with a unique ability: it’s always-on listening. The phone is always waiting for commands whether it’s in your hand, on the table or across the room. If it can hear you, it can receive commands and talk back using Google Now.
Position a few microphones around your house. Say, in a smoke alarm, and suddenly your house listens to commands and give you answers like the computer on Star Trek TNG.
It’s not about having an app or a high pixel-density screen to sit down and browse through. Pick your favourite metaphor: narrowing the gap, removing friction, seamless transactions: It’s about ordering a thing as soon as you think of it. Racing to the computer and looking up the item is a step that could be removed.
Whether you’re sitting on the couch, making dinner or playing with your dog, these devices are waiting to perk up their ears and take your order.
The elephant in the room, when it comes to e-commerce – Amazon – already introduced its screenless ordering device.
The Amazon Dash is a wii-mote like handheld gadget that has two functions: scan barcodes, and listen to audio commands. The Dash is constantly compiling a list of things to order and automatically ordering them for you from Amazon.
“I don’t even remember ordering it,” consumers will say when their groceries, clothing or other goods show up at their door.
Google and Amazon – and parcel-focused companies like Canada Post – know that fast (same-day or next-day) delivery is what makes e-commerce truly satisfying. Crucially, it’s what makes everyday e-commerce purchases practical. No one will wait 10 days for a head of lettuce or a package of toilet paper.
I believe that the ability to order anything at any time is at least a part of the reason why Google bought Nest.
In other words, maintaining room temperature will continue to be the least of your worries.
This article originally appeared in the Dx3 Digest. The Dx3 Digest explores the realistic challenges and tremendous opportunities awaiting Canada in the future of digital. Subscribe to the the Dx3 Digest newsletter here.