Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) continue their battle over the market for voice-enabled devices. Right now, 2018’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018) is the battleground.
Amid the competing partner announcements for Google Assistant and Alexa, there’s word that Google is planning a big consumer push for its personal assistant to combat Amazon’s stubbornly high market share in the smart speaker space.
This push could include a revamp of Google’s online store, selling Alphabet products with Google Assistant front and center. Google Assistant could also become a platform for buying products online. This would be a direct challenge to Amazon.
GOOGL stock hit all-time highs this month, but to keep the momentum, the company needs to overcome the Alexa problem. And they need to do it before Amazon’s smart speaker lead becomes unassailable and the Amazon Echo effect spreads into other products.
Google Assistant and Alexa at CES 2018
Google clearly came to the Consumer Electronics Show intending to make a huge splash with Google Assistant. The company plastered the “Hey Google” command to launch its digital assistant all over Las Vegas. Not just at CES 2018 — where it installed a massive tent — but also on billboards throughout the city and even on the side of the Las Vegas monorail.
Amazon and Google have been trading announcements at the show, as each tries to show it has momentum and third party support.
Amazon scored headlines with the announcement that Toyota Motor Corp. ADR (NYSE:TM) will start offering Alexa in its cars . Drivers will be able to ask Alexa for news, control the entertainment system and control their smart home devices while driving.
Google has been releasing a barrage of partner announcements for Google Assistant-powered smart speakers from well know audio companies including JBL, Altec Lansing, Bang & Olufsen and Klipsch. Google also announced a new platform that will see companies including Sony Corp (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) release Google Assistant speakers with built-in displays — a product clearly designed to take on the Amazon Echo Show.
The Google Assistant Push
While Amazon and Google duke it out at CES — an extension of the fight that’s been escalating between the two in recent months — rumors of a big consumer push for Google Assistant after the show are circulating.
A report in Bloomberg suggests that Google may launch a re-vamped online store in February, with devices featuring Google Assistant front and center.
In addition, Bloomberg’s sources claim that Google is working on a strategy to let consumers buy products and services using Google Assistant.
Why the Emphasis on Google Assistant?
Google profit — and GOOGL stock — has always been highly reliant on ad revenue.
Roughly 90% of Google revenue comes from advertising, and 67% of that now comes from mobile ad revenue. In other words, not from a person sitting at a computer and searching from their web browser. Increasingly, voice assistants are becoming a big part of that mobile equation.
Google Assistant is now on roughly 400 million devices, including Android smartphones. But the Amazon Echo has a 68% share in the rapidly growing smart speaker market.
And Amazon is having considerable success in leveraging that position to get Alexa into third party products. The CES announcement about Toyota is just the latest sign of Alexa’s growing reach. The Bloomberg article also points out that when it comes to any service that involves buying something, companies turn to Alexa. In the case of LG Display Co Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:LPL), for example, its smart TV has Google Assistant, but its smart refrigerator uses Alexa.
Google is worried that Alexa could threaten Google Assistant in overall market share. That would impact Google’s ad revenue. And be bad news for GOOGL stock.
All of that is why Google and Amazon were in a smart speaker price war during the holiday season. It’s also why Google is being flashier than usual at CES 2018. And why Google is considering a new look for its online store and strategizing about turning its virtual assistant into a platform for buying products and services. It’s also why the companies are furiously racing to sign up Alexa and Google Assistant partners.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.