The last time the two fought over a new market was in 2008, when Google released Android for smartphones. The iPhone was still relatively new, and Android quickly ate into Apple's market share, eventually owning over half of the smartphone market.
This time, they're fighting over the devices in your house, which are quickly connecting to create the smart home of the future. At the center of this smart home, there has to be an operating system that talks to the devices and aggregates data -- enter Apple's Home Kit and Google's Nest.
Google goes after another Apple market
Apple made a splash when it introduced Home Kit in June of 2014, promising to bring centralized controls to all kinds of devices. Users could set lights, locks, thermostats, and garage doors with the touch of a button, depending on whether they were leaving or returning home. But Apple has been slow to launch Home Kit and was hardly the only game in town when it came to integrating smart home devices.
Google's Nest acquisition started with a thermostat, but the end goal was for Nest to become the hub that controls the entire system. Within the "Works With Nest" platform, users can now buy lights, locks, security cameras, and more, all of which adapt according to their schedule, with some devices even adjusting if they're on the way home.
For consumers, the challenge with Home Kit and Nest is that the platforms don't talk to each other. This can be problematic if you have devices from both companies under one roof. If building a smart home, users may have to choose one platform, not just for the smart hub but for all of their devices. For Google and Apple, it will create an even bigger incentive for consumers to choose one ecosystem or the other.
The surprise impact when consumers build a smart home
Another integration challenge will be connecting smart controls to services like utilities. Utility demand response programs are already working with Nest in some locations, and that should only expand in the future. At times of high load, a utility can tell Nest to turn down someone's air conditioning or delay a washing machine cycle, reducing the need to consume expensive peak power.
But if your local utility has a partnership with one platform and not the other, you may be shut out of these features. It's just another complication for consumers, and it could slow the adoption of smart home devices.
Billions at stake in the new standards war
Apple and Google both have a lot at stake in becoming standard platforms for both consumers and manufacturers. Whichever company a consumer chooses to run their home will become even more indispensible for future tech purchases. It's great designs and the stickiness of its operating system that Apple has used to build a $623 billion market cap, and Home Kit will keep even more consumers within its ecosystem.
If Google can expand the Next platform in the home, it too may be able to expand in the device business and, at the very least, give consumers another reason to choose the Android platform. Expect both companies to put a lot into their smart home efforts in the next year.
Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.