Amazon Echo and Google Home - Let the Battle for Audio in Your home Begin

Alexa play the Freakonomics podcast”

"Alexa, play jazz from Spotify" 

"Alexa, what’s the traffic like on my way to work?"  

Alexa, what's my first appointment today?"  

One of the deterrents to podcasting has been the typing, searching and downloading. What if all of that went away?  

What if a simple voice command enabled a podcast to be found and played?  

Our family recently purchased an Amazon Echo and while it is a fun gadget - ask it to tell you a joke -  and can perform a variety of tasks, it has significant implications for the audio business.  Echo represents the coming of age of artificial intelligence in which machines learn to interpret and answer human questions.  

It is a speaker you plug into the wall with always-listening, far-field microphones that can hear you from across the room.  It awakens when you call it's name "Alexa."  

By using voice for all of its commands, Echo removes much of the friction with finding music in the Spotify App or having to search and download a podcast.  Just say the name of the song, artist, station or podcast and Echo instantly starts playing it.  Smartphones can do some of the same tricks, but Echo is faster and pulls from a vast content eco-system that goes way beyond what resides on your phone.

"Alexa play Z100 Radio”

With Echo, all audio, no matter the source, moves to a level playing field.  With ease, it will grab an NPR newscast, or read a book from Audible.  

Yesterday, Google announced its own voice-activated device, Google Home insuring this nascent category is bound to grow rapidly. It received top billing at Google's Developers Conference.   

"Alexa give me a news update from NPR"

Once you get past the “creep-factor” of a device that is always listening for its name, using voice is natural, simple and quick.  It is far easier than typing. 

Echo is the genius of Amazon’s Jeff Bezo’s who obviously watched a lot of Star Trek episodes back in the day – the computer answered questions with a human-like voice.  Even complicated ones.   

Analysts estimate there are 3 million Echo units out there and Amazon recently added two less expensive options "The Dot" and "The Tap."

"Alexa, play Steely Dan from Pandora"

Linear AM/FM has always had the advantage of ubiquity and ease of use in the world of audio choices.  But today, according to Edison Research, one third of millennials do not have a radio in their home.  Amazon Echo, with its excellent speaker can serve up linear radio, but it just as easily can play the “Art of Charm” podcast.  That means, as these devices proliferate, the world of audio becomes flat.

"Alexa, add milk to my shopping list"

It is certainly attractive for hands-free interaction in the connected car.  

Google Home launch partners 

Google Home launch partners 

Voice-activated computing has huge implications for many sectors and audio is right up there.  With giants like Amazon and Google behind it, it likely marks another significant change in how people will find and consume content.  

One of the toughest things for listening to podcasts has been the friction of typing and searching.  With smart agents, all of that goes away and thus, the audio dial becomes infinite.  

"Alexa, beam me up"