Outside of CES, there probably isn’t a tech trade show that sees more consumer product launches than IFA, which is held in late August and/or early September in Berlin. And while IFA individual product launches naturally get just a fraction of the publicity of big Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung phone launches, in aggregate there’s a lot of useful news for both investors and tech junkies to digest.
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Here are some notable takeaways from this year’s batch of IFA announcements, and what they imply for tech companies large and small.
1. Google is hungry to make up lost ground against Amazon in the home speaker wars.
As Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) sees surging demand for its Echo speaker line and strikes as many deals as it can with OEMs to extend the reach of the Alexa assistant powering the Echo, Alphabet Inc./Google (GOOGL) is suddenly eager to return fire. At IFA, Google announced five third-party speakers, including ones from Sony, Panasonic and JBL, will support the Google Assistant service and thus function much like the company’s own Google Home speaker. These moves follow a deal with Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) to integrate Assistant with Nvidia’s Shield TV console and Spot speakers.
Google also announced Assistant-powered devices will be able to control certain LG home appliances. Though Google fully opened up Assistant to developers in May, Alexa for now maintains a big lead over Assistant in terms of the number of smart home devices and third-party Internet services it supports.
While Amazon has an ecosystem edge and greater consumer mindshare thanks to its head-start, Google can still sell consumers on the high quality of its assistant and their its to integrate with Google services such as Search, Maps and Gmail. And when it comes to Android users, Google can pitch the convenience of having a common set of personalized assistant services for one’s phone and home speaker.
In the short-term, Alexa speakers will probably continue to easily outsell Google Assistant speakers. But Google might be on better footing in a year or so.
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