Alexa on your Face whispering in Your Ears
Earlier in the week, the FT published a story reporting that Amazon was allegedly working on a set of glasses using bone conducting technology to bring Alexa to your ears. Given Amazon’s hiring back in 2014 of Babak Parviz- founder of Google Glass – the Amazon’s eyewear should not come as a surprise. According to the FT, the glasses will have no screen, will work tethered to a smartphone and will look like a traditional set of glasses.
- I have talked before about AirPods and the power Siri gains from being able to whisper in your ears. I can only assume if these Amazon glasses exist, that Amazon shares my view that having your assistant whisper in your ear is very effective.
- As the FT article explains very well, Bone Conducting technology has been around for many years, but the main reason why it has not taken off is that the quality of the sound is not as clear, which could cause some issues when wanting to talk to Alexa in noisy environment
- The biggest question for me on doing glasses is why Amazon would make me wear glasses instead of earbuds if the glasses are not used as a screen? While the FT says the rumored glasses will have no screen, I can’t help but think that there must be a reason why Amazon would link the ears and the eyes.
- Most consumers already use some kind of headphones so that would be much more natural than using glasses unless there was a specific purpose the eyewear would serve other than hearing. Failing that, I just don’t see how consumers will find the proposition compelling especially when they can have other assistants in their ears through headphones. I am sure there is more to this story, but we will have to wait to know!
Google buys most of HTC’s design and engineering staff for $1.1B
On Wed. Google and HTC announced a definitive agreement under which certain HTC employees – many of whom are already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones – will join Google. HTC will receive US$1.1 billion in cash from Google as part of the transaction. Separately, Google will receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property (IP). This agreement also supports HTC’s continued branded smartphone strategy, enabling a more streamlined product portfolio, greater operational efficiency, and financial flexibility.
- While the main release did not give much detail, we know from HTC’s CFO that the deal covers about 2000 people most of whom were already working on Pixel with Google. This leaves about 2000 people left at HTC
- This investment was a smart move on Google’s part as it acquired talent without having to pay for manufacturing capabilities which we know are not necessary to be successful. There are plenty of people out there who can manufacture a phone but not as many who can design a great phone.
- I was surprised that the deal did not include Vive as I thought Google could benefit from acquiring assets to directly compete with Facebook. There might be two reasons for this. One, that VR is still a long way away when it comes to dedicated devices and Google will prioritize AR Core and Daydream. Two, that HTC was just asking too much for Vive or was not ready to let go yet.
- It seems that the injection of capital might actually end up more supporting Vive than the smartphone business. I am however concerned about what HTC expects it will be able to do in the long run. Even if HTC continues to manufacture Pixel for Google, I doubt it will be enough to keep it going.
- HTC talked about streamlining the portfolio, but we are talking about a portfolio that is quite limited already. I am not sure if this means HTC will try and go down in price and give up on some markets such as the US clearly a top priority for Google.
- HTC had mentioned in the past to wanting to retrench into China because the market offers a big enough opportunity for its business. However, despite the brand still being relatively strong in China, competition has never been tougher.
- Google is clearly very focused on hardware in a very different way that it was when it acquired Motorola. Back then, it wanted market share in the high-end but more for smartphone sake than ecosystem sake. Now the stakes are higher. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung are all pushing more and more into devices broadening their reach into the home critical for the next phase of AI and Ambient Computing. The phone remains a key asset in that push into the home and Google must be able to control the experience from top to bottom.
Google launches mobile payment Tez in India
Earlier in the week, Google launched a new mobile payment service in India called Tez. The service allows to pay for goods as well as peer to peer payments. Tez lets users link the app directly to their bank account and uses audio QR codes to transfer the money. Supported banks include Axis, HDFC Bank, ICICI and State Bank of India and others that support Unified Payment Interface. Online payment partners include large food chains like Dominos, transport services like RedBus, and Jet Airways. And tellingly, to help address one of the many ways that the Indian market is fragmented, the app has support for English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.
- This is a great move by Google as it lowers the barrier of entry for mobile payments to phones that do not have Bluetooth or NFC. Going across platforms on both iOS and Android is also a good move. While Apple still has a low market share in India, it is well known that Tim Cook has great hopes for Apple in this market.
- The service is free for consumers and small merchants for now as users have the app linked to their bank account, but it will be interesting to see if Google adds fees once it adds supports for cards. Other payment serices such as PayPal also differentiate in that way
- Google also said that there will be devices coming from several brands including Nokia, Lava, Micromax, and Panasonic that ship with the app preloaded which would lower the barrier of entry further both from a discoverability issue and avoiding the data cost of downloading the app.
- Of course it will be interesting to see how Google will monetize from the service but considering how big micro payments are in India I would expect this service to become easily popular, especially as the government seems to be supporting the service in an attempt to help consumers move away from cash