Rumors have been swirling for at least a month before the Google I/O developer conference this year that Google would be coming out with a device to rival the Amazon Echo that is currently available on the market. Sure enough, Google did not disappoint and they ended up announcing their answer to Amazon’s smart speaker. Dubbed Google Home, the offering is poised to have many considering the switch from an Echo to Google’s offering, and many more still to go with Google Home over the Echo if they have yet to pick up a device of this particular type. At face value, Google Home appears to be a stellar offering that will end up catering to the masses, and it just might end up a wild success in the home on the same level of the Chromecast which, at this point, is Google’s only truly successful living room product to date. In addition to some of its functionality, the Google Home does have one other thing going for it that could help it launch with much fanfare, and that’s the fact that Google’s VP of Product Management, Mario Queiroz, is standing behind it. With such success from the Chromecast launch, Google Home has the potential to be another home run for Queiroz. Despite its attractive design and the power of Google Search, though, there are still reasons why we shouldn’t care about Google Home just yet.
To start with those that are the most obvious, there has been no details mentioned about pricing or exact availability. Sure, we know that Google Home is coming later this year, said to be in the Summer, but how much later is later? Beginning of the Summer? Late Summer? While those that truly want to give Google Home a try will probably be willing to wait till the bitter end to get their hands on it, some consumers may be wanting to take the plunge and invest in a product like Google Home now, and at this point, their only other option is the Amazon Echo. Beyond having no idea how long consumers will have to wait for Google Home to hit the market, we still don’t know how much it’s going to cost. It’s highly unlikely that Google would do anything but price Home to match the Amazon Echo competitively on cost, but until Google actually confirms a cost, there is still the possibility that the Echo will be more affordable at its current $179.99 price tag. The Echo may not look as nice as Google Home, but matching home decor is not important to everyone, and if Echo ends up being even just a little bit less money then it may not matter to those that do find it important.
While things like price and availability are sure to be attractors for consumers, the lack of any specific knowledge about those two details is sure to turn some people off as well. In an age where people seem to value speed and getting things quickly quite a bit, waiting to hear about product details such as these may be a bit of a let down for some. Price and availability aside, Google Home is also less functional than the Amazon Echo. Google states that this is by design as they want to build out how the device is able to interact with its users in a natural way, but less functionality is less functionality, and despite any promise that may be made about quick updates to its feature set, there is still the possibility that it may take longer than people are expecting or hoping for and that is sure to put some doubt in the minds of interested consumers. Yes, Google did state that more functions and smart home device compatibility will be coming, but it’s entirely likely that at launch, Google Home will only be compatible with a smaller selection of smart home products which would include the Nest product lineup, as well as the devices which are part of the “works with Nest” program, while other device compatibility has to wait.
Beyond the automation capabilities with the small number of devices like lights and thermostats, Google Home offers a way for you to power your streaming capabilities for media like movies, TV, and music, all by voice, so long as you have the necessary consumer electronics which have Google Cast technology built-in. While it may not be easily done with voice, streaming media to multiple points in the home can already be done with your Android smartphone or tablet. The process is certainly not hands-off, but it’s doable, and until Google Home can functionally do more, some consumers might fail to see the need for a product that does mostly everything their phone is already capable of doing just so they can accomplish tasks without touching their device. With the power of Google Assistant onboard, Google Home is definitely going to turn some heads after actual use begins, again, though, the power of Google Assistant is already something that is mostly available through the Voice search features and Google Now, and if you have a newer device it can even support hands-free functionality of asking questions and completing tasks just by stating the “OK Google” command. You can already set a calendar date for events and such simply by using your voice with the existing Google Now feature, and in reality, one also has to consider how much faster it is than simply typing in the calendar event details.
Essentially, the truly unique powers of Google Home which aren’t necessarily available on Android devices are the ability to link multiple Google Home units together, making for an easy way to do things like turn on the lights in one room from a completely different room in the house with just your voice, or by doing the same things with streaming music, as shown in the initial ad for Google Home that was displayed at Google I/O last week. For those that don't care so much about that added convenience, though, One could easily pull their phone out of their pocket and stream a song to a Google Cast-enabled speaker in another room, or open up an app they use to manage the smart home hub that connects all their smart home devices such as lights and switches. Google Home is simply making the already available automation, more automated, but it isn’t giving much just yet that isn’t already available through a smartphone.
Eventually, there will be plenty of functionality with Google Home that will put it on par with the Amazon Echo in terms of sheer compatibility, but it could come down to how fast Google is able to integrate these functions into the device to play catch up. This could be made easier if they opened up Google Home to developers through an SDK, but at this time there is no SDK for developers to work with, something which Amazon made available to developers earlier this year, giving them a pretty decent head start as they opened up the Alexa Voice Software back at the end of March. With no possible help from developers, Google is looking at a potentially slower rollout of more features for Google Home, leaving Amazon to continue at the same pace it's been at for a couple of months or even ramp things up to stay ahead of the competition. Google Home has lots of potential, and when it's more robust than what was shown off at I/O last week, it may just be smash hit in retail stores and through online sales, just like the Chromecast. Before that can happen, though, Google Home needs to have more functionality and features than what was announced. Then again, when the Chromecast launched it wasn't compatible with loads of apps, and it was a hot seller pretty much right from the start, so Google Home could follow the same path.