For some reason, Google is still playing catch up to Amazon.
While undoubtedly immature and arguably not ready for prime time just yet, Google Assistant is easily the best of the virtual assistant platforms you can get today. The natural language processing is amazing, handling accents is beyond compare, and when Google Home launches this will be the first assistant that actually works as a whole life platform. Being great on the go and being good enough for a beta in the home is an impressive step for Google, but it's easy to see how Amazon's shadow looms over the Google Home efforts for the foreseeable future.
Step one in solving this problem isn't a more complete software package, though that absolutely also needs to happen. Instead, Google needs to respond immediately to the thing that makes Amazon more compelling than Google Home — price. Specifically, the price of Amazon's second offering in the Echo space, the Dot.
Echo Dot isn't just a smaller, cheaper Echo; in many ways, it's a compelling argument for being the only Amazon Echo you should buy. Many early adopters have the bit Amazon Echo in a centrally located place in the house, somewhere that everyone can call to and get a good response when needed. The impressive microphone and decent speaker in Echo makes this fairly easy to do, and so when Echo Dot was released those users started thinking about the kitchen, the bedroom, and anywhere else the first Echo didn't quite reach. It's a solid plan, but hardly one that needs to be followed by people who haven't purchased the original Echo.
Basically, the creator of the $35 Chromecast Audio could easily step up and make a $50 or $60 Google Home Mini.
At $50, you can have three Echo Dots for the cost of one Echo. They're cheap enough that Amazon will give you one for free if you buy six, and people are actually taking the company up on that deal. That's seven Echo systems with the same impressive microphone system that are easier to hide in more discrete places around your home, and can be connected to speakers you already have. Not that you necessarily need to, mind.
If you're not listening to music on Echo the speaker built in to Dot is more than enough to acknowledge commands or listen to flash briefings. An Echo isn't required to power an Echo Dot, either, so it just makes sense in many homes to buy a couple of these smaller systems instead.
Echo Dot isn't just a smaller, cheaper Echo. It actually makes a compelling argument for being the only Amazon Echo you should buy.
And that brings us back to Google Home, the $130 Google Assistant box that looks much nicer than Echo when positioned strategically, and is sold in multiples to make it easier to position around the house, but is still more than twice the cost of the Dot. It's not hard to see why, after using one, Google worked hard to make sure the speaker not only sounds better than the big Echo but also works with other Home units to produce music throughout the house. That's something Echo doesn't do at all right now, and when combined with Google's streaming partners has the potential to be a huge feature for music fans that don't have a household stereo system already.
Basically, the creator of the $35 Chromecast Audio could easily step up and make a $50 or $60 Google Home Mini that speaks to me when I called. Something that doesn't require me to walk around the house with my phone at all times, that my kids could use when I'm not around, and that was actually available in every room at an affordable price.
Unlike Amazon's larger Echo, there'd still be a big reason to purchase one or more Google Home over this Mini strategy thanks to Google Cast, but it'd be a huge step toward offering a complete response to Amazon Echo instead of feeling like the biggest search company in the world was always weirdly one step behind taking over my home.