Jeff Brathwaite of 2 The Next Level: Alexa’s Secret Recording Gives Google An Opening in the Battle for the Smart Home

Usually my co-host for doing the Watching Amazon video podcast is my buddy, John “ColderIce” Lawson, but with him out of the country, I was lucky to have my friend, Jeff Brathwaite, web guru and Google Home/Assistant expert, join me.

And it was perfect timing. Last week, it was reported Google outsold Amazon in the smart speaker device category for the first time ever in the first quarter of 2018. I did not think this would happen anytime soon, let alone last quarter.

Google vs Amazon Race Heating Up

In our conversation this week, Jeff and I talk about Google catching up to Amazon in the race for our homes, how a new way to measure the race might help Amazon stay in front for a while longer, and how Alexa’s recording (and emailing) of a private message could be a game changer — for Amazon and the entire smart speaker category.

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Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the full conversation watch the video below, or click on the embedded SoundCloud player. And a special thanks to the folks at Farm Burger in Buckhead (Atlanta) for letting us geek out while eating natural burgers and sweet potato fries!

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Jeff Brathwaite of 2 The Next Level: Google vs Amazon - Alexa’s Secret Recording Gives Google An Opening in the Battle for the Smart HomeSmall Business Trends: Alright, so, last week a article came out, in the first quarter of 2018, Google actually sold more units of the Home device, than Amazon sold of the Echo.

Jeff Brathwaite: Oh really?

Small Business Trends: I gotta admit, gotta throw it out there. So, they’ve caught up in a little, in a certain way.

Jeff Brathwaite: Okay.

Small Business Trends: The market share leader is still Amazon right now, total market share.

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: But this was the first quarter that Google folks, they actually passed them in terms of units.

Jeff Brathwaite: Okay.

Small Business Trends: Alright, so this is why I’m going to tell you that’s the good news, but I’m also gonna tell you why it’s not as good as it may seem.

Jeff Brathwaite: Okay.

Small Business Trends: The new metric is going to have to be, how many third party manufacturers are putting Amazon Alexa in versus Google Assistant. And right now, that’s still not a contest.

Jeff Brathwaite: Okay, I’ll have to give you that. Yes, there are so many more who are integrating the Echo, yes, I agree.

Small Business Trends: I will say this, Google, and the technology in the Google Home, and with Google Assistant, you can’t fault it, I mean it’s some good stuff.

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: Way ahead in terms of certain areas than the Echo and Alexa. But I think what’s gonna continue to keep Alexa, maybe a little ahead, Amazon a little ahead, is the ecosystem, no pun intended. Well actually, there was a pun intended …

What Amazon has done by reaching out to these manufacturers, by Alexa being in more and more appliances and devices around. Seeing the deals they’re making with car manufacturers …

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: Seeing the deals that they made with, was it Acer? Or one of the computer laptop manufacturers, now they have Alexa inside the laptop, which is really a shame for Cortana more than anyone.

Jeff Brathwaite: Oh gosh, yes. I agree.

Small Business Trends: How does Google respond to that?

Jeff Brathwaite: It also doesn’t hurt that they have taken every Google device off of Amazon, okay?

Small Business Trends: And then on the flip side, you also have YouTube not allowing the Echo devices to show YouTube videos.

Jeff Brathwaite: Yes, yes, and so the mere fact that you can’t buy a Google device on Amazon, and that whole YouTube thing, Amazon wants more content than anything now, right? They want to somehow bring, ’cause they got screens now, they wanna fill those screens.

Small Business Trends: Right. The Echo Show.

Jeff Brathwaite: I really like that. I’m looking forward to when Google gets a version of that type.

Small Business Trends: You’re not gonna make the jump?

Jeff Brathwaite: No, not yet. But I think Google will eventually have one like that, and I do like that, that little Echo, that screen right there is part of it: I think there’s gonna be a lot more back and forth as they evolve and put more devices out.
That was great to know that the integration of all these third parties, and they’re falling behind, but Google, at any one time, can put those types of deals together, just as well. I’m pretty sure some of the car manufacturers are already working with them. So, you name it. There are gonna be some things going on with the both of them.

Amazon will still gonna be the leader, I give you that, but I guarantee you, Google’s gonna be there. This Christmas is gonna be a pivotal time frame for both companies.

Small Business Trends: The big, 800 pound gorilla in the room, at the moment, is what happened with Alexa last week…

Jeff Brathwaite: Oh boy. Yes.

Small Business Trends: Listening, and recording …

Jeff Brathwaite: Yes.

Small Business Trends: And then emailing the recording to a contact.

Jeff Brathwaite: Yes!

Small Business Trends: That is a huge…

Jeff Brathwaite: How did that happen?

Small Business Trends: Well, they tried to say it was like a perfect storm of things, but that’s just, that’s bad. That’s really bad.

Jeff Brathwaite: Oh boy.

Small Business Trends: They have to be open and transparent, as much as possible, about how it happened, and how they’re gonna fix it, and if they’re able to, and they’ve kind of started doing that …

Jeff Brathwaite: Temporarily they had to turn the speaker off.

Small Business Trends: Yes. So I would say they have been pretty quick with the response, but they have to be because if this goes on, this is one of those things that could go very wrong.

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: It could really make a difference between who’s the top, who’s not.

Jeff Brathwaite: Kind of reminds you of the murder case that happened, right? If you didn’t hear about that, there was someone who was murdered, and as the device, was in the room, and they wanted the information to see …

Small Business Trends: Oh right, I remember that.

Jeff Brathwaite: … if the device had heard something that went on, either before or after the murder.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Jeff Brathwaite: And they had to get with Amazon to find out. And they say it did actually record some stuff.

Small Business Trends: Yeah, so this is gonna be… not just an Amazon thing, this whole area of privacy …

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: But Amazon is front and center and on the hook right now.

Jeff Brathwaite: Okay.

Small Business Trends: They have to get this right. ‘Cause if they don’t get this right, this impacts them particularly, but it also impacts the whole smart speaker category.

Jeff Brathwaite: Yeah, yeah. It can do damage to both companies.

Small Business Trends: Absolutely. So are you still pretty gung-ho about Google?

Jeff Brathwaite: I am, I am. They’ve lowered the prices, they’re trying to get them out there. That’s probably where that spike in the amount of devices went up, because they lowered a lot of their prices and they’re trying to get them in people’s hands.
I got one for free, the Doorbell, I just got the Google Doorbell. And I got a Echo, Echo, I didn’t mean to say Echo.

Small Business Trends: Oh wow, he said it.

Jeff Brathwaite: I got a Google Mini, a small one, for getting the actual Doorbell. And I love the Doorbell. The Doorbell is amazing.

Small Business Trends: Amazon bought Ring.

Jeff Brathwaite: And so they’re going at that same, whole smart home thing.

Small Business Trends: They bought Blink. I mean, yeah it’s funny, it seems like Amazon has been a little bit more proactive on the acquisition side …

Jeff Brathwaite: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: I know everybody’s mobile, we’re in a mobile world, but you gotta come home, you gotta have a home base. And you’re seeing more smart devices in the home.

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Tends: TVs, appliances, refrigerators, and if you’re able to put your Assistant, if you get Alexa inside or Google Assistant inside, that brings you more interactions with customers, those interactions brings data.

Jeff Brathwaite: Right.

Small Business Trends: That data becomes insights that they can leverage to keep providing a better experience on a more ongoing basis. So the more devices your Assistant is in, the more you’re gonna know about these folks.

Jeff Brathwaite: My Nest device, I can turn down the actual temperature in my home.

Small Business Trends: Yeah.

Jeff Brathwaite: I can speak it out and say, “Turn down the temperature in my home,” because of the actual speaker devices. And I can listen to the chime from my Doorbell, and see who’s at my Doorbell from my Google device in the same manner.
So, all these things are gonna be encompassing.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

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