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iDevices becomes Android-compatible at CES 2017

This small move reflects a larger, slower shift in the smart home industry.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The developer iDevices just announced forthcoming Android compatibility. In and of itself, this announcement isn't groundbreaking -- but what it says about the direction of the smart home market at large is important.

iDevices has been around for years; its first massive success was with the iGrill (now sold off to Weber). In the smart home industry, iDevices was one of the early success stories of HomeKit, releasing the solid iDevices Switch and rapidly following it up with the Thermostat, Wall Switch, Socket and other products.

Some iDevices products are good, and some are, well, not so good. But all of them reflect the clean white-chic aesthetic Apple is famous for pioneering -- and all of them work with Apple HomeKit.

Apple failed to capitalize on its early smart-home lead, however, and in the past two years, competitors like Amazon with its Echo speaker and Alexa voice assistant have stolen the spotlight. Even iDevices, the always stalwart companion to HomeKit, made an Alexa app.

And now, iDevices is taking yet another step toward independence from the HomeKit platform. Sure, it still works with HomeKit -- but with Android and Alexa compatibility, the developer is making its own path.

This is the pattern of smart home tech right now. Developers want to make devices for companies that are easy to work with (see Amazon opening up the Alexa developer tools) and that are ubiquitous (see Android). Exclusivity is quickly becoming untenable, unless your product is a centering force in the home (like Nest has been in the past).

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You can control iDevices' latest gadget, the Instant Switch, on iOS or Android -- with Siri and Alexa.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

This move for iDevices is a smart one. It makes them more relevant to a wider variety of consumers. But it's a sign that Apple's early bets in the smart home -- that developers would implant proprietary chips to work with HomeKit, and would stay exclusive without a big PR push for the platform -- simply didn't pan out.

The good news for Apple: It's not the end of the world. Exclusivity might not be the name of the smart home game (at least for now), but HomeKit still has some tricks up its sleeve. Competitors just have a lot of the same tricks.

See all CNET's CES 2017 coverage here.