It seems Google may have many Homes in various stages of development, there’s the Google Home, Google Home Mini, Google Home Max and now apparently a Google Assistant-powered device with a 7″ Screen codenamed “Manhattan”. It’s not a stretch to imagine that Google would be working on a version of their Home smart assistant with a screen, if for no other reason than to keep pace with Amazon.
We’re going to need a lot of salt for this one. According to rumours today not only are Google working on such a device, but they are trying to rush it out the door ahead of it’s mid 2018 timeline to stop Amazon’s commanding lead in the voice assistant space. The 7″ device would feature Google Assistant, YouTube videos, Google Photos and video calling according to the rumours.
While most of this makes complete sense I question how ready Google’s back end services would be to accept such a massive expansion to the Assistant/voice chat landscape. Google Assistant is already massively fragmented, even on the same device. Take the Pixel for example, you can access Google Assistant via voice only without the screen on, via voice or text with the screen on and while running the Android Auto app.
Depending how you try and use an Assistant App you’ll get a different result, with not all services working on the same combination of user interaction methods. Extend that out to Assistant on Wear or on the Google Home and now the TV and again you’ll get different and inconsistent experiences; this isn’t good for Google’s stated “one voice assistant” model.
Now let’s take a passing look at Google’s video calling strategy. If we focus on international consumers we have Hangouts and Duo currently on offer. Hangouts has clearly been left out to die with the whole Hangouts experience slowly deteriorating, (I use it daily) so I’m going out on a limb and saying it’s not going to be installed on a brand new device.
As for Duo, it’s cursed by many of the same bad decisions as Allo has been, primarily it’s single device only. That can be changed, and that’s my point, Google has a bad track record for re-engineering their products. Call me sceptical but I’m not confident they can move Duo onto the Manhattan and have a consistent approach. This is Google however so I wouldn’t put it past them to insert yet another Video Chat service into the “Home” app in a rush to get it out the door.
Please don’t mistake my scepticism for a lack of excitement, I’d buy the hell out of any Google Home screen device. My point is that Amazon already has the lead and I truly hope Google takes the time to make a considered and well integrated device. Google’s days of releasing fractured and disjointed services just has to finish.
Not only does Amazon have a commanding lead in the voice assistant hardware space but because they are releasing services, often for the first time, into this voice assistant landscape their services work perfectly within that context as well as being “backward” compatible to phone apps and even traditional PCs. Google needs to compete on these well-integrated and seamless services more so than the boxes they live in.