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Smart Home

Alexa, who? I don't just want a Google Home, I need one

Commentary: Bye, bye, Amazon Echo. The moment Google made its Home rival official, CNET's Jessica Dolcourt was ready to give Alexa the old heave-ho.

It's been six months since I bought my Amazon Echo, and I use it nearly every day. It was a good purchase. I'm glad I have it. In fact, the moment I get home tonight, I'll probably ask it to play music, tell me tomorrow's weather forecast and set the timer so I don't burn the veggies this time.

Sorry, Amazon, you're just not Google.


But the moment that Google officially unveiled its similar Google Home, I instantly knew this is something I need in my home. It isn't that Amazon's Alexa assistant has done anything wrong. In fact, "her" voice recognition is good, even from across the room, which is important. It's that Amazon doesn't have Google's dizzying breadth of services and deep search expertise, and for me, that makes all the difference.

Amazon's Echo can reorder your toilet paper and read you the news, plus all these other tricks. But it can't hold a conversation with me, sync with other members of its kind for surround sound, and integrate with my Google address book, which I've been carefully curating for years with my friends' addresses and the middle names and birthdays of their children (that's the goal, anyway).

I may be a minority here, but I have standard-issue appliances in a small city apartment, and I'm not about to shoulder the cost of fancy smart fridges or stoves that could one day tie in to a smart speaker. I don't have a garage door, or smartlights (but want!) and Nest for me is overkill. That means I can't take advantage of everything that Alexa can do, and I likely won't be able to use Google Home to its full extent either, when I finally get it in my covetous hands.

I may change my mind later. Alexa has a huge head start and over 900 skills and counting. Still, at its entrance into the market, Google is in a good position to compete. I'm betting that Google will do what it did with maps and phones and what it's starting to do with cars: Join a space, and then dominate it by integrating services that you either want to have or already use day-to-day.

But the real reason I think that Google's system is for me (although it scares me to let a single company control nearly all the information and products in my life) is that even though there's an Amazon Echo a few feet away, my mind drifts to Google. When I have demands I think Alexa can't fulfill, I tip my chin to the ceiling (where I might have to install the Google Home unit like this) and invoke the Google powers that be. "Ok, Google", I'll mock-shout at the apartment, "Find me that thing I want!" It's a joke my roommates are used to by now. They chuckle.

But come fall, these call-outs to whole-home Google won't be a joke at all.