Color me jaded but I swear that today’s variety of technology industry publications are in business purely to gin up controversy rather than provide some astute observations or analysis on industry trends.
Here’s a recent example. Amazon belongs to the future of technology. Not Apple. Or, so says serial contrarian Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, notorious for stirring up a controversy where none exists. How is that not simply a cover to attract more eyeballs to advertising. Sure. Amazon has a product that will knock Apple from its perch. Oh, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.
ZDNet’s writers seem more intent on frolicking through la-la-land than providing the kind of insight or analysis that foretells the future as it will be written, as opposed to telling the future that creates momentary controversy.
This sounds more like something from Donald Trump than a paid follower of technology industry trends.
The future belongs to Amazon, not Apple
According to the latest Internet Trends report, the iPhone is set to lose around 11 percent market share this year. On the up is Amazon’s Echo voice-powered home assistant.
Uh oh. Amazon’s hot-selling (according to whom?) Echo intelligent assistant is going to defeat the powerful iPhone. Really? How, exactly, is that going to happen? They are two entirely different devices, one of which is tethered to your home Wi-Fi or internet connection with a power cord, and the other is a mobile device already being used by nearly 1-billion people on planet earth.
Does. Not. Compute.
To support the premise that Apple is on the way down while Amazon is on the way up ZDNet uses a slide from Mary Meeker’s (partner of Kleiner Perkins fame) always anticipated-but-I-don’t-know-why latest prognostications regarding the industry. Here it is in living color. Apple is going down. Amazon is going up.
What could be more clear?
Look closely and you’ll see what I see and the extrapolation to a trend that will disrupt the industries where Apple plays just isn’t there. The slide compares Amazon’s Echo with Siri-like Alexa voice controls to Apple’s iPhone sales. Please note that Apple’s numbers are real, and even with softening demand for all smartphones, including the iPhone, the company likely will ship more than 200-million devices this year.
But Amazon’s Echo is on the rise with an estimated sales number of perhaps, maybe, possible few million devices during the same period. So, we have actual numbers vs. estimated numbers for two products that do not really compete with each other. One is a multi-faceted mobile supercomputer in your pocket, beloved and used by hundreds and hundreds of millions of customers, while the other has sol a couple of million units according to paid guestimators who dream up such controversial shenanigans because imagination.
What’s wrong with that picture?
Apples to apples, Please
To be fair, Amazon’s Echo with the Alexa voice recognition system is pretty cool and it performs some requests better than Siri but that’s not exactly difficult. Even Google’s whatever-name-it-is-today voice system, and Microsoft’s Cortana do some things better than Siri. But Siri also does some things better than Alexa, Cortana, and what’s-its-name. What is different should be obvious but nobody at ZDNet, members of the technorati elite politburo all, can figure it out.
Echo and Alexa is not an iPhone and Siri killer, and not even a competitive product. Why not?
Anything Alexa can do Siri can also do; if not now, soon. And do it immediately on nearly one-billion devices as Apple’s customers upgrade to the 90th percentile. And do it on iPhones and iPads which are fully mobile devices, while Echo and Alexa are tethered to a power cord.
How long will it take Amazon to get Echo and Alexa into a billion devices?
What’s being overlooked in the technology rag’s anemic analysis is what is really happening in the marketplace. Siri is billed as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator. Hello? Artificial Intelligence, anyone? Alexa on Echo is much the same.
Here are six items that Amazon says are common requests made to Alexa.
- Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?
- Alexa, what’s my commute to…?
- Alexa, play Adele from Prime Music.
- Alexa, find me a Chinese restaurant.
- Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes.
- Alexa, re-order paper towels.
Siri can do exactly the same thing except for ‘re-order paper towels’ from Amazon, which strikes me more as a parlor trick because Siri came up with multiple places that sold paper towels. Who orders paper-towels from Amazon?
Intelligence, My Dear Watson
No, this is not a race between Apple’s iPhone and Amazon’s Echo (or other AI wannabes), but more of a race toward and forward to artificial intelligence systems that may permeate many devices and locales. Amazon wants Alexa to take orders and sell you products and will sell you a device to do just that. Apple wants you to buy an iPhone or iPad or Mac that has Siri built-in, but both Alexa and Siri are forerunners of artificial intelligence systems. This is not a race anyone can call today, and probably not any time in years, because we’re likely to have many such AI systems for years to come.
For now, I’ll place my bet on the company that already has a billion devices where artificial intelligence can live today, tomorrow, and in the future, rather than on a technology company wannabe that makes it easier to buy paper towels online.