There’s a war going on between major technology giants who want to control your living room. It’s a hardware and software war that pits Apple against Amazon, Google against Microsoft, and mashes up a whole bunch of technology hardware makers against each other.
Amazon’s entry to compete against Siri is the Echo box which features the Alexa intelligent assistant with voice recognition and a bunch of basic user friendly commands you won’t find much of from Apple. Yet.
With the Echo platform Amazon might actually have something attractive. Most reviewers and researchers like what Echo and Alexa can do, and whether or not the device is a success, only Amazon knows (and unlike Apple, Amazon never releases the number of what it sells; so be suspicious).
Siri and Alexa (and the necessary Echo box) work much the same way. Siri, for now, resides on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Watch, but Apple is known to be working on a similar box which can be placed around the home, uses Siri voice activation; a device which could control appliances, lights, locks, and other household appliances.
What’s missing in all these home-based intelligent assistant devices and their interfaces– Siri and Alexa– is voice recognition by person, and facial recognition (which would require a camera). While Amazon may have sold a few million Echo devices, Apple has nearly a billion Siri-equipped iPhones and iPads already in the market, each with a microphone and a camera. Can voice and facial recognition be far behind?
Apple’s HomeKit has been around for a couple of years already and, like Siri itself, still shows more promise than reality. Ditto for Amazon’s Echo. These devices and technologies are in their infancy but thanks to science fiction, our imaginations for what they can do are more mature.
What it looks like is that Apple wants to sell us another device that functions more like Amazon’s Echo and Alexa device, something of a central hub that coordinates what Siri can do, even when operating on other Apple devices. That leads me to wonder what’s really going on?
Amazon’s Echo is not yet truly mobile. It’s not a device you will carry with you, and except for Apple TV, that’s exactly what you can already do with Siri on a MacBook, an iPhone, an iPad, and Apple Watch.
I don’t see that Apple needs a hardware device to match Amazon Echo’s various form factors as much as Apple needs to improve what Siri can and should be doing already. Siri has been around five years. Another Apple device that works like Amazon Echo and sits nearby, always on, always ready to act differs from ‘Hey Siri…’ on my iPhone exactly how?
There seems to be a general understanding among the certified and approved members of the technorati elite politburo that Amazon’s Echo is the industry leader in that segment. Perhaps so, but I’ve tried Alexa on Echo and while it is a nice way to access music and some information, it does not do much more than Siri does now, and Siri shows up already on half a dozen Apple products in the Mincey Plantation, not to mention on a billion other Apple devices worldwide.
All these talking and listening devices are interesting and have a handful of useful functions, but they need to get better– much better– before I’m likely to spend money on yet another Apple device with some form of an intelligent assistant that fails to reach its true potential. Oh, and Amazon is a bit too much like Google; constantly tracking what I do so it can sell me something.