Why Google unveiled only 5 devices this fall, while Amazon announced 15

Amazon is flooding the market with Alexa products. Google says that isn't necessary.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
3 min read

Google's Nest Mini was one of five products the company announced Tuesday.

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Google on Tuesday unveiled its new generation of consumer devices, meant to inject the search giant's services into every aspect of people's lives. They were: the Pixel 4 phone, the Pixel Buds wireless earbuds, a new version of the Nest Mini (formerly called the Google Home Mini), a touchscreen laptop called the PixelBook Go and a mesh Wi-Fi router.

You could count all the new products on one hand. 

The announcement was in stark contrast to Amazon's big launch event last month, when the e-commerce giant unveiled its own spate of devices for its Alexa voice software. To name a few: a high-end speaker, eyeglass frames, a ring, an oven, a night light and a smart plug

You'd need three hands to count all 15 of them. 

It may seem like inside baseball to tally the number of devices announced at an annual tech hardware event, but the difference in approaches sheds light on how each tech giant is trying to get people to bring its products into one of the most intimate spaces: the home. That battle will only get more intense as both companies try to lure people to their respective digital concierges, Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant. 

Asked about Google's philosophy versus Amazon's, Google's Mark Spates, the company's product lead for smart speakers, said the search giant is trying to do more with less. Google, he said, aims to be more helpful in three areas: when people are at home, when they're working at the office and when they're traveling around the world with their phones

"If we can make sure we can solve those problems, you don't need a ton of devices to do that," Spates said in an interview after the event Tuesday. "You just need the right devices."

He also pointed to sustainability issues, saying he didn't want unused products to end up in landfills. "Let's not make things that don't have real problems to solve for users," he said.

Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment.

One small announcement Google made Tuesday highlights the radically different approaches of the two companies. The search giant showed off the new version of its Home Mini smart speaker , called the Nest Mini, and one new addition was a wall mount so you could hang it up. The idea, in part, is to allow people to fit the device in smaller spaces. 

By contrast, Amazon created a whole new gadget to solve the problem of getting a device into a small place. Last month it introduced a small Alexa-enabled device that plugs into an electrical outlet like an air freshener.

Analysts who praise Amazon's approach say the company is simply trying to give consumers more options. "They're just doing more experimenting," said Frank Gillett, an analyst at the market researcher Forrester. He said Google's lineup doesn't have the "same breadth of creativity" as the Amazon suite of products. Plus, Amazon isn't against iterating on its existing product designs. The company last month added a digital clock display to the side of its Echo Dot speaker. 

Amazon has long been the aggressive company in regard to spreading its digital assistant software far and wide. The e-commerce giant beat Google to the punch when it first released the Echo smart speaker in 2014, a confounding move for a company no one associated with voice search. Google followed suit two years later and released the Google Home. 

Since then, both companies have made strides in the smart home market. Still, Amazon continues to lead when it comes to smart speakers, with 70% of the market. Google has 25%, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

When Google CEO Sundar Pichai first introduced the Google Home in 2016, he gave his new rival a shout-out. "Credit to Amazon," he said. "There are areas where we will be ahead, and there will be areas where someone points a way and we do it." 

CNET's Ben Fox Rubin contributed to this report.

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