Changing Ecosystems


Changing Ecosystems

The future is now and it’s in the form of virtual assistants. Of course, virtual assistants have been around for a while, but they’ve gotten oh so much smarter.

So I bought one.

There are a couple major players on the market, but I stuck it out with the newcomer (though by no means the underdog): Google Home. So, why not wait for Apple’s virtual assistant? Or go with Alexa, Amazon’s solution to virtual assistants that has been on the market since late 2014 and would integrate perfectly with my existing Prime account? Why go with the one that looks like a glamorous air freshener? My choice ultimately boiled down to two factors: brand and established products.

A good brand goes a long way, and it’s hard to argue when Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is valued at approximately $500.1 billion as of May 2016. It’s easy to think of marketing as advertisements. In print, on the web, with social, we are constantly inundated with products we should try and services that will fix everything in our lives. I recognize that my consideration of the Google Home was the result of a marketing effort, but the marketing did little to really sell me on the Home. Google’s consistency as a brand, however? Different story.

Largely fueled by their Material Design visual framework, the Google brand establishes user experience and interaction patterns that are easily recalled and translate across their entire product line. For me, that means I got hooked. Once you get the hang of one Google product, you’ve virtually eliminated a learning curve for all products following and, in doing so, you’ve reduced the apprehension against trying a new product. That’s huge.

I’ve been a longtime (if not necessarily loyal) user of Google products. Beyond Google search and Gmail, Alphabet has developed a lot of products under the Google masthead that all connect and communicate. This is, possibly, the largest reason for my decision to go with Google; their product “ecosystem”. I don’t own android devices anymore–my current product ecosystem is almost entirely rooted in Apple at the moment. But from the moment I setup my Google Home, the assistant was able to play an obscure Spotify playlist, rattle off my calendar for the coming day, give me a breakdown of weather, lower and raise the volume, tell me when to leave for work, play parakeet noises for my bird, and pronounce my name correctly.

More than anything, the Google Home scratches the ego. There’s something about walking into a room and, unprompted, telling the air to schedule an event for tomorrow and “check the weather there”. Then, Google Assistant will cheerily confirm my event and update me on the weather where the event will be. Still, there are miscommunications and times I ask something that can’t be done. Instead of simply saying “I can’t do that,” Google will say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to do that yet. I’m always learning, though!”

And she is. Google isn’t exactly known for leaking information about their upcoming products, but with the competition already able to do so much that the Google Home is lacking as of release, it’s extremely likely we’ll be seeing new features soon. Not to mention that with the Google framework powering everything, I’m not worried about my information getting “stuck” in the ecosystem (like Apple tends to do). In the meantime, I’ve started trying to beef up my smart tech by researching smart bulbs, switches, etc. My finding? Any future smart product I consider will always run by the “does it work with Google Home” filter, something I’m sure isn’t unique to me. This presents one obvious truth: third-party products that choose to support Google Home first will see a huge traction with Google users who are new to creating their own automated ecosystem. 

Fact is, we no longer buy a singular product. Instead, we now buy product ecosystems. It’s not a new idea, and it’s evolving into something interesting with the implementation of consumer-level IoT in recent years. We might even see something of a super-product ecosystem, where more companies partner to work together exclusively to integrate their products. Either way, we’re seen tech move away from a single product, and more into modular ecosystems in which outdated components can be replaced, rather than an entire product. So, did I make the right choice? Maybe, maybe not. In the meantime, I’m going to pretend my life is busy enough to warrant an assistant.


[Photo credit: Google]