Alexa and Google Assistant Battle for Smart Home Leadership, Apple and Cortana Barely Register

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have been releasing information and new product features over the past couple of weeks at an increased pace. The timing is related to the annual Google I/O developer conference which starts tomorrow. Amazon routinely accelerates its announcement cadence in advance of large events that are likely to showcase new features for Google Assistant. The goal of each company is to win over the hearts and minds of consumers, product reviewers and tech reporters. The latest back-and-forth relates to smart home device integrations.

On Thursday of last week, a Google blog post pointed out that Google Assistant smart home integrations rose from 1,500 in January to over 5,000 this month. A day later, Amazon pointed out that that its updated smart home products page claims 12,000 smart home devices from more than 2,000 brands can be controlled by Alexa. So, we have dueling stories. Google has made remarkable strides in cutting into Amazon’s early smart home lead, but Alexa still has more than twice as many device integrations.

Apple HomeKit and Microsoft Cortana Have Limited Smart Home Support

It seems fair to say that consumers choosing Alexa or Google Assistant have an abundance of smart home devices to choose from. Not the same can be said of Apple HomeKit and Microsoft Cortana. Apple lists 194 available, announced, and coming soon smart home device integrations. Cortana only reports 39. There is sound logic in saying that no consumer would ever need access to 12,000 devices, but when the number is less than 200 across a number of smart home device categories, choice quickly becomes limited.

The Information (N.B. paywall) has a story out this morning about Cortana that includes an interview with Jason Johnson, co-founder and CEO of the smart lock maker August Home. According to the article:

“[Johnson] said his company has not integrated with Cortana and has no plans to do so. August prioritizes partnerships based on market demand, he said. Its products work with Nest, Siri and Honeywell. But when it comes to demand for Cortana, it’s ‘crickets,’ he said.”

That is a good explanation for the lack of interest in Cortana, but what about Apple HomeKit and Siri support? An earlier story from The Information shed additional light on barriers to HomeKit expansion.

Apple’s HomeKit, the system Apple uses for connected home gadgets, requires most device makers to install a specific authentication chip to work with Apple, and that has significantly limited the number of new devices getting to market.

Cortana did announce integration with IFTTT in February 2018 that will expand its ability to work with a variety of devices. And, Apple is winning over a growing number of device makers and even some home builders. However, neither has a breakout smart speaker to drive home adoption. Even with lackluster HomePod sales, Apple still has a billion iPhone users so every smart home device maker is going to take that into account. The lack of attention Apple is receiving from smart home device manufacturers makes it look like a second class citizen. Cortana is even further behind and it is not clear how it will catch up. The problem is distribution. Cortana is available on a lot of PCs, but does not have widespread availability in smart speakers or on smartphones where personal utilities like smart home device control is most common.

It is pretty simple. There is momentum behind consumer interest in Alexa and Google Assistant and not for Siri and Cortana. Smart home device makers are simply following the consumer adoption wave. If Siri or Cortana suddenly become much more popular with consumers, the smart home industry will follow to support those platforms. Until then, Amazon and Google are likely to extend their smart home dominance making any gap even harder to close.

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