Tech companies intensify competition in home gadgets

talking smart home device

After years of living mostly within our desktop computers and in our smartphones, with just some isolated appearances in the outside world, tech companies now seem to be preparing to compete for space within our homes. 

Amazon was probably the first to settle in, with its Alexa-enabled Echo smart home device. But then Apple decided to launch its Siri-enabled HomePod a few months ago.

Now, Samsung has confirmed that it’s also planning a similar home gadget, according to CNBC.

Essentially, all these devices are thought of as streaming media players. HomePod, for example, is mostly promoted as a music streaming speaker. They can, however, do much more, in co-ordination with other smart home devices such as smart lighting systems, smart heating controls and so on. They could even be used as phones.

Samsung’s equivalent of Alexa and Siri is Bixby, the voice assistant included in the latest of its smartphones.

Bixby can already interact with smart home gadgets built by other companies, but Samsung wants to build it a companion of its own.

It hasn’t been formally announced, but DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile division, told CNBC: “Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it.”

Koh added: “I wanted to provide a fruitful user experience at home with Samsung devices, and I want to be moving quite heavily on it.”

It’s too early to estimate market shares. If a study were done now, it would probably show Amazon as the market leader, since it was the first to move in.

But it would be interesting to review the situation in a few months.

And while Samsung is Apple’s fierce rival in the smartphones market, it will be competing with Amazon in the home market.

Apple, of course, has been producing a home device of a different sort for some years – Apple TV.

But, according to Parks Associates, the tech giant is lagging behind market leaders in the streaming media players for the home.

Parks positions the top companies as follows:

  • Roku
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Apple
  • Others

And the market for these over-the-top devices is not an insignificant ones, with the sector likely to grow much faster as prices fall.

Roku devices, for example, can now be bought for less than $30.

As Glen Hower, senior analyst at Parks Associates, says: “One-third of US broadband households own a streaming media player.

“The growth of the US OTT market provided consumers with unprecedented ease of access to video content. These streaming media devices make for quick and easy access to the top OTT libraries.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is said to be planning a video chat device for the home to compete with a similar device demonstrated by Amazon, called Echo Show.

Business Insider says Facebook’s device is codenamed Aloha and will feature “a large touchscreen along with a camera and speakers and be capable of recognizing peoples’ faces when they step into view”.

Facebook has been consolidating its development of hardware into one unit, where its virtual reality headset, Oculus VR, will also be integrated.