The biggest surprise out of Amazon in recent years was the Amazon Echo, a smart Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, an AI brain able to answer your questions, play your music and order your dinner. Now, Google wants to offer something similar.
An article, in The Information today, profiles Tony Fadell, who runs the Alphabet-owned Nest. The report focuses on Nest’s struggle to sell its smart-home devices like thermostats and connected cameras. But it also reveals some details about an attempt by Alphabet-owned Google to build its own version of Alexa.
“Nest asked to be included in a secret Google project to create a competitor to Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled personal assistant device,” The Information reports. “But the Google executive in charge of the project, which has not been reported on publicly until now, said Nest would not be involved in its development, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.”
The real power behind the Echo came from Alexa, the cloud-hosted brain that analyzes your speech and finds the right response, whether that’s reciting a dictionary entry or ordering you more garbage bags. And, more importantly, Alexa is working together with other smart devices in your house, from coffee makers to fitness trackers. It even works with Nest’s thermostats.
The fact that Google is working on an Echo competitor isn’t all that surprising. Google already has a smart assistant built into its Android devices, and its machine-learning and AI ambitions are well documented.
But the fact that it is focusing on a direct Echo competitor is definitely new. It seems like it had the perfect opportunity to launch it last year, embedded in its super-smart WiFi router—another non-Nest hardware device. The thing even looks like an Echo.
The Amazon Echo has been a huge hit for the retail giant. In fact, Amazon can’t seem to keep in on the warehouse shelf—it’s currently backordered until April 3. And it also introduced two companion Echo devices earlier this month, including the portable Amazon Tap and the Echo Dot to put Alexa in every room.