“Alexa” Battles “Home” at CES. Radio Should be Watching.


The world’s largest search company is not going to let the world’s largest online retail website win the voice-enabled home-assistant war without a big fight. Google has taken over Las Vegas, promoting it’s product “Home” in an effort to gain ground on Amazon’s Echo. And radio should take notice that Google is a serious player in this fight, and make sure their radio stations are not only Alexa-enabled, but also Google Home-enabled.

Google has wallpapered the streets of Las Vegas with the words “Hey Google” during CES and Google has installed a twirling slide and a ball pit in the convention center parking lot to attract attendees. Wired reports you can barely turn around without seeing a “Hey Google” billboard reminding you of the power of the company’s voice-activated bot. “Google Assistant is everywhere in Vegas because Google wants desperately for Assistant to be everywhere in your gadgets.”

Amazon’s Echo is winning the virtual assistant battle so far. Last year at CES Alexa was already in hundreds of third-party devices and the company says it has sold “tens of millions” of it s devices. In late 2017, Juniper Research reported that smart devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Sonos One will be installed in 55 percent of U.S. households by 2022. The report stated that over 70 million households will have at least one smart speaker and the total number of installed devices will be more than 175 million. eMarketer recently reported that 35.6 million U.S. consumers would use a voice-activated device at least once per month in 2017, representing 128.9 percent growth over last year.

Watch for our January 29 cover story with The Director of Amazon Music Ryan Reddington and former Q101 Chicago PD Alex Luke, Amazon’s Global Head of Programming and Content Strategy for Amazon Music. We discuss the possible synergies between Amazon Music, Alexa and your radio stations.


  1. Station identification for ESPN radio shows now include the ESPN app. For NPR stations, it’s now “your local station or your smart speaker.” So it’s clear that radio is moving from over the air to over the Net, and what we (soon) used to call “coverage” is no longer limited by range over geography, but access over Internet devices.

    That’s one upside.

    Another upside is that radio can now be interactive, meaning the listeners can do the talking as well. They can also sing back, sing along, join in with their own instruments, record streams and create mixes to distribute or share back. Those are all within the technical horizon of smart speakers today.

    The downside is that smart speakers, so far, are a form of premium subscription cable radio, and what you can get is limited by what Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sonos or some other company facilitates. And much or all of that facilitation is in those companies’ “clouds,” rather than on your own independent device. Worse, those systems are closed and proprietary, meaning they don’t get along well with each other, on purpose. That’s so you get trapped inside their “silos” or “walled gardens.” Worse than that, you have levels of privacy—at least with some of them—that aren’t much higher than zero. (Apple is an exception here, or at least tries to be.)

    Another interesting effect of smart speakers (and satellite speakers in, for example, Sonos and Bose systems) is the end of stereo sound outside the headphone, car and home theater environments. Outside of those, only audiophiles still care about the science and art of stereo music through speakers.


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