“Alexa, say ‘Thanks' to Google.”
We won't see any message like that in the near future, but Amazon executives should be very happy right now. And the massive ‘Works with Alexa‘ program should build on its dominant marketing position in smart home technology toÂ grow even stronger.
Google just took a big step backward from being the glue that ties a smart home together.
LastÂ week Google said it'd be integrating its line of Nest smart home devices into its overall line of Google Home products and rebranding all of them as Google Nest. So far, so good. However, the company also said that it would be canceling the Works With NestÂ program and moving to a single integration platform for smart home technology, one based on integration with the Google Assistant.
On the face of it, that's not such a huge problem: one integration methodology goes away, another takes its place.
But it's a significant change for thousand of existing products — including some in my own home — that will break currently working integrations.
For example, my home air quality sensor, built by Airthinx, will now now longer be able to tell Nest to circulate indoor air and freshen it up. Lighting giant Lutron warned its customers that multiple products and apps would lose the ability to turn on or off automatically.
The company does haveÂ Google Assistant integration, but some functionality will be lost.
That's something many smart home aficionados are using, including a developer friend who has automated his lights, fans, locks, music, temperature, alarm, and more. (He's now working on getting coffee going just after his morning wake-up time.)
But now that complex web of automation is at risk:
“It does make it more difficult to mix ecosystems and do as much as I'm doing now,” says Jesse Stay, a Utah-based entrepreneur. “You'll be stuck waiting for individual ecosystems to catch up, or Google to work with more partners. I may choose to switch to Amazon's ecosystem if I can't make things work with Google.”
IFTT going away is a problem, and it's one that is going to cause ill-will for Google when existing integrations fail.
Killing Works with Nest has other challenges.
NowÂ if youÂ don't use the Google Assistant or don't have a Google account, smart home integrators will beÂ out of luck.Â Because in addition to the broken IFTT integrations and the programÂ cancellation, Google is making a strategic move towards deeper integration of competingÂ smart home solutions not directly with Google's hardware, but with Google's overarching control software: the Google Assistant.
That's powerful for Google.
Because the Google AssistantÂ becomes the key point of consumer contact.
And as all marketers and business development people know: the brand that connects with the customer, is visible, and is front-facing, collects the lion's share of the rewards. Every other partner moves deeper into the integration stack, becomes less visible, and is less able to extract a fair share of the overall revenue generated by a complete system.
There are reasons why Google did this, and security is one of them.
This isÂ a step towards more control of the data that a smart home constantly generates. There's a good side to that — less risk of breach of privacy or security — but it also means more centralization around Google's long-term solution for managing smart homes.
The short-term result is that to those in the know, Amazon becomes a more attractive option. It's more open, easier to connect to, and already ubiquitous.
The long-term result that Google hopes for is a less open but more lucrative — and vertically-integrated — smart home.