Amazon Alexa vs. Google Assistant: The battle for connected future dominance is on

Key Points
  • Amazon and Google have announced partnerships to bring Alexa and Google Assistant to many devices at the IFA tech show in Berlin
  • There is a landgrab from both players to get their voice assistants on as many devices as possible
  • Amazon and Google are bidding to become the operating system of the internet of things
Todd Haselton | CNBC

IFA is one of the largest consumer electronics shows in the world. The largest device makers in the world from Samsung to Lenovo tend to stage flashy launches at the event which takes place in Berlin, Germany.

But quietly in the background, two players with barely any branding anywhere are making the most noise: Google and Amazon.

Construction of booths was still ongoing on Thursday ahead of the opening day on Friday. Companies like Sony, Panasonic and Samsung were putting the final touches on their giant stands.

But tucked in the tiny corner of the venue, in one of the smallest halls, was a stand for Amazon Alexa, the e-commerce giant's voice assistant. So far, no Google branding could be spotted.

The low-key presence of these two from a brand perspective is deceiving because they were in fact all over the place. In many of the product launches, from many different companies, either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant was mentioned as a partner.

Source: Amazon

Chinese firm Qihan for example integrated Alexa into its humanoid robot called the Sanbot Nano. Sony released a 230 euro ($272) smart speaker, similar to the Amazon Echo, but with Google Assistant as the main voice feature. Meanwhile, LG announced that all of its smart home devices released in 2017 will be compatible with Google Assistant. That means users can ask the voice assistant things like how long is left on the cycle of their LG washing machine.

It's an absolute land grab by Amazon and Google, two tech behemoths who are leading the way in artificial intelligence (AI). And there's a few reasons why.

Firstly, the more devices that each voice assistant is on, the smarter it will become because it has large amounts of data available.

But the most important strategic reason is that the so-called internet of things (IOT) is becoming reality. That is, an increasing number of devices are becoming connected and Amazon and Google both want to be major players, without actually making much hardware.

Think what has happened in smartphones. There are two dominant operating systems: Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Owning these has allowed Apple and Google to become major mobile players and reap the revenues from their respective app stores and other services.

As of yet, there is no unified "smart things" operating system. It's disjointed, expensive, and not seamless, like we have come to expect on mobile. But there's rising interest in voice assistants which could prove to become the operating system of the IOT. You can control devices without screens and those assistants can almost become your handy helper.

Amazon missed the mobile wave in terms of hardware and software, but this could be its chance to become a major IOT platform. And the reward could be a significant new revenue stream. In a report earlier this year, RBC predicted that Alexa could bring Amazon $10 billion of revenues by 2020 and be a "mega-hit."

Think about a world with Alexa all around you. Imagine now what Amazon could sell you. The vision is similar for Google. Ads and e-commerce could give the search giant some new revenues.

There's potentially a lot at stake and it's risky if voice doesn't take off. But neither Amazon nor Google wants to miss out and that's why this epic landgrab to get on as many devices as possible is set to continue.