There's a cold war brewing between the major tech companies. The smartphone land-grab that sparked hardware and software innovations from Apple, Samsung, Alphabet's (GOOG -0.08%) (GOOGL -0.15%) Google and Microsoft is now, essentially, over. Apple and Google have won, and now the tech world is looking for the next territory to conquer -- and it increasingly looks like that will be our homes.
Amazon's voice-activated smart home hub, Echo, debuted just two years ago and it's already emerging as the device to beat in connected homes. Echo is powered by the Alexa digital assistant, which can play music from Amazon Music, order a pizza, schedule an Uber car, check the weather, and connect to myriad other smart home devices, including Google's Nest thermostat.
But Google could be gearing up for smart home hub fight. A new article published last week in The Information said that Google is working on its own smart home hub to combat Amazon's Echo.
"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 said. "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."
Little is known about the device, or even if Google will actually release it, but there are more than a few reasons why Google is need of a strong Amazon Echo competitor.
Why Google needs this
Google isn't exactly a non-entity in the smart home space. The company's biggest push into smart homes came from its $3 billion purchase of Nest. So far though, Nest hasn't quite delivered for Google.
The company's connected smoke alarms had a very public problem of going off when they didn't need to, and not being able to be turned off. And Nest's thermostat suffered a blow recently when a software update forced the device to turn off the heat this past winter, and couldn't be turned back on without a full reboot.
Glitches like the ones above are to be somewhat expected from devices, but the fact that Google is developing its own smart home hub without the Nest branding shows that Google may want start to tackle the smart home on its own.
Meanwhile, Amazon just released the companion device to Echo, the Echo Tap, which is a smaller version that extends the range of the Echo into additional rooms. The company has also opened up the Echo, and the Alexa assistant, to pair smart thermostats, speakers, lights, door locks, etc. to the hub.
Foolish final thoughts
We still don't know if Google is set on releasing its own smart home hub to take on Amazon Echo, or if it's just experimenting right now. But it's hard for me to believe that Google could look at what Amazon is doing in the home and not be worried about getting its own product out as soon as possible.
Google could quickly catch up to Amazon with its own hub because it already dominates in an area that Amazon can't touch: search. A Google smart home hub could field search questions through Google Now, possibly tether to Chromecast to play videos you request, and provide accurate traffic and driving information as you stand in your kitchen. The device could give Amazon some real competition -- and, at the very least, finally give Google a fighting chance in the smart home space.