Google vs Amazon: Youtube will not be available on Amazon Devices

The Ongoing feud between Amazon and Google intensified yesterday, with Google announcing that Youtube will not be available on Amazon devices.

The move can be seen as part of the growing threat competitors face from Amazon across all fronts – retail, devices, voice, media – and Amazon’s ability to integrate and package it with customers in mind.

You can read more about the details about the feud here 

Youtube and respecting your customers

I want to cover a different aspect – how do users feel?

I don’t think they are happy – here are some choice comments:

“Google seems to love using YouTube as a weapon to annihilate competition”

“these companies should suck it up, play nice, and win the tech war by offering the best products, not trying to handicap their competition.”

“And yes it is not symmetrical. For literally every product sold on Amazon there are at least some but most often many really viable alternative places to go get it. No consumer is teuly harmed by any product not being sold on Amazon. There are plenty of places to get Nest. There are not truly viable alternatives to get YouTube content. While Facebook video and Vimeo do exist they are not in any way comparable to YouTube in the way Walmart is to Amazon. Both companies are doing some shady stuff but there’s no doubt it’s Goolgle that is actively harming users. And yes they’ve done it before. They are and have been every bit as evil as they swore not to be in their mission statement”

Personally, I choose a Fire TV Stick device over a Google ChromeCast because the latter failed to connect to my wifi – a running issues with the ChromeCast for over 3 years. Keeping in mind Adpocalypse and the more recent Adpocalypse 2.0, that helped alienate content creaters, I wonder if alienating users is the best next step?

What can you do? Youtube Alternatives

Youtube’s announcement had me looking at alternatives, and in the process I discovered some neat apps:

Tubi - Free Movies & TV

TubiTV – has an interesting mix of old school hits, stoner shows and b-grade. Their anime collection isn’t bad and their fare is different than what Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime have to offer

Twitch

Twitch – If you love watching video game playthroughs, switching over to Twitch from Youtube should fill all your cravings

Spotify Music – pour Fire TV

Spotify – If you love music, get Spotify. Spotify’s playlists are a great way to discover new music

Vimeo

Vimeo – Get classy, high quality content created by filmmakers. The site caters more for long form content

Cover art

Coub – Coub is the opposite of Vimeo mixed with reddit like voting system – short funny clips on the loop

Daily Tube for DailyMotion - FREE

Daily Motion – Daily Motion is pretty much the European version of Youtube. While not as popular or having as much content, it still a great platform

What’s next: Bypassing Youtube’s block on Fire TV

For those who still want to use Youtube on the Fire TV,  we will be following any development around ports and posting those. There are ways to install Kodi on Fire TV Stick and I expect similar exploits for Youtube.

Voice Commerce: Black Friday 2017 goes to Amazon

This Black Friday Amazon took a massive lead in the voice commerce war. I want to use this post just to showcase the numbers.

According to Hitwise, Amazon scored 55% of online transactions.

The next best was Wallmart at 8.8%. CyberMonday is expected to see the trend continue:

https://www.retaildive.com/news/amazon-devoured-55-of-black-friday-online-orders/511719/

Amazon strengthened it’s hold on the voice commerce

The Echo dot and Amazon Firestick were the best selling products from any manufacturer in any category. Effectively, grabbing the device market – the channel to voice commerce – gives them greater control of the overall process:

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171128005840/en/Record-Holiday-Shopping-Weekend-Amazon-Devices%E2%80%94Millions-Alexa

Having said this, the Google Mini, currently  is not doing too poorly – but is far from catching up.

Will Boxing Day bring similar results, or will other voice platforms as well as retailers be able to fight back? If so, how? Will new strategies or tactics work? Or will be it be a loss leader strategy?

 

 

PullString Converse: Understanding the #VoiceFirst Ecosystem

Continuing our discussion about #VoiceFirst, we shift from PullString Converse  to the trends impacting the larger ecosystem:

Michael Fitzpatrick

Just as mobile and touch interfaces powered the past decade of innovation around customer engagement, we believe that voice and AI will power the next ten years.

VoiceStrategist: How do you see the digital assistant and voicefirst ecosystem evolving?

Michael: Just as mobile and touch interfaces powered the past decade of innovation around customer engagement, we believe that voice and AI will power the next ten years.  I expect the majority of consumers to become familiar and comfortable with digital assistants through voice-enabled speakers and mobile devices over the next few years. Beyond that, I believe we’ll see digital assistants become a fundamental part of the way in which we interact with the technology around us.

VoiceStrategist: What are your thoughts on AI – especially, fears around job loss and AI being too “powerful”?

Michael: It’s undeniable that AI has the potential to remove the need for human effort in many job categories.  There are already examples of use cases where it significantly outperforms humans capabilities. The challenge in front of us is what do we do with some of this new found freedom.  If technology is able to improve our businesses and life quality, what are we to do with all this new-found freedom and time?  Answering this question seems to be on a lot of people’s minds these days, and I’m not sure society is evolving at the same rate as the technology is.

VoiceStrategist: What is the relationship around voice and AI?

Michael: In order for humans to be able to converse with technology, a computer needs to be able to understand speech, including the words said, their intent and context, and then surface the correct response back to the user. Machine learning and AI platforms enable these interactions today, and will continue to improve over time to begin to provide even more sophisticated generative dialogue back to humans.

VoiceStrategist: What are your thoughts on VR, AR and Holograms? How do you them integrating with voicefirst?

Michael: It is still early days for these technology platforms, but we believe voice will become a standard interface across VR, AR, Hologram, Mobile, Television, and IoT devices in a connected home.  Our software is already in use to support Hello Barbie Hologram, as one example.

If you missed the PullString Converse story and evolution, you can find it here. We would like to thank Michael for his time and his thoughts.

PullString Converse: VoiceFirst Prototyping Design and Development Tool

pullstringlogo-1.png

For those who don’t develop, a new set of voice prototyping, design and deployment tools for voice apps are available. Last week PullString launched PullString Converse and we got a chance to talk to Michael Fitzpatrick, the President and Chief Operating Officer for PullString.

Michael Fitzpatrick

Michael:  “the product is designed for creative professionals, digital marketers, and innovation teams without requiring any coding or technical knowledge”

VoiceStrategist: How did you step into the field of voice? Where do you see it heading?

Michael: PullString began its life as a technology company focused on building conversational toys for the children’s market back in 2011. The company has since evolved to provide software to empower creative professionals, digital marketers, and innovation teams to build engaging conversational experiences for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IoT devices.

Over the years, we learned by building experiences of our own, as well as supporting other brands like Mattel, Activision, and Nickelodeon who have leveraged our software platform. The emergence of voice-enabled devices and platforms like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are rapidly pushing the field forward and into consumer households creating the opportunity for brands to have highly engaging 1-1 personalized conversations with their consumers at scale.

VoiceStrategist: What is PullString Conversion Cloud and Pullstring Converse? What is the difference?

Michael: PullString Converse is a software platform to design, prototype, and publish voice apps for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IoT devices. It is powered by our Conversation Cloud, which provides everything needed to deploy and support your voice apps once published to Amazon, Google, etc.

VoiceStrategist: PullString Converse is targeted towards “Brands”? Do you see the brands themselves using PullString or the agency(ies)?

Michael: We have experience with both brands directly creating and managing their voice apps, as well as Agencies building voice apps for their clients. PullString Converse was designed for team collaboration on voice apps, and this allows brands to build interactive voice apps with various team members internally ( creatives, digital marketers, and even legal for compliance purposes ), as well as cross-firewall with agencies. Likewise, agencies can leverage their resources and collaboratively design voice experiences with their clients.

VoiceStrategist: How would any collaboration work?

Michael: PullString supports team collaboration by enabling multiple users to engage on a given voice project with appropriate roles and permissions. Voice apps can be easily shared with others in the organization to preview and provide feedback. All of this has been designed to ensure the most engaging conversational experiences are being built with PullString.

VoiceStrategist: The case for informational voice app for Brands is straightforward – how well is Pullstring Converse situated to build transactional systems?

Michael: While there are a variety of informational voice apps available today, we think we’re only now just beginning to see some interesting examples of what’s possible through a combination of custom audio, interaction models, and personalization. Personalization, in particular, is something that can be dramatically enhanced through information available in transactional systems, and is a core part of our roadmap going forward.

VoiceStrategist: What are your thoughts about brands and retailers feeling voice apps are trouble for them? How can PullString Converse help them?

Michael: PullString Converse will allow brands to build engaging, interactive conversational experiences for their consumers. These voice apps have the potential to go much further than product ordering by embracing their brand persona, delivering complementary information and experiences to their product(s), and personalizing the experience for the consumer, at scale.

VoiceStrategist: So I am an agency and I have customers who might be interested. What would a partnership with PullString look like? Do you have easily accessible sales material or demos for customers?

Michael: We’d love to support you! We’ve designed PullString Converse to be a tool you can rapidly build voice apps with, and believe it will become a competitive differentiator for agencies pitching their clients on innovative marketing and customer experiences.

We will be launching a formal program in a few weeks, but in the meantime, please feel free to get in touch through our website and we’ll follow-up to get you started with all the right supporting material and product access.

VoiceStrategist: What kind of technical guidance is required to setup PullString Converse?

Michael: We designed PullString Converse to allow organizations to write conversation, not code. This means the product is designed for creative professionals, digital marketers, and innovation teams without requiring any coding or technical knowledge.

We will be following up on Friday with the second part of the interview, where we discuss the broader voicefirst ecosystem.

Why Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Matter in voicefirst ecosystems

Any discussion about voice and digital ecosystems is incomplete without discussing augmented reality, virtual reality and holograms. Voice is a great input and output mechanism on its own, but really comes into its own with synergies with other input and output devices and mechanisms.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Are Here: IMAX VR

Here is an example of voice and vr working together – last week I tried out some games at the ScotiaBank Theatre IMAX:

Image the same devices, in an office setting, enabled by voice. What you get is (but for business):


It does also highlight, another interesting question – what should be routed where? When should visuals be routed to mobile screen or TVs or AR sets. What should happen when no visual device is available?

Voice without Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Screen Size Zero

While the problem may seem new, it is not – developers and designers already manage for devices and screen resolutions/sizes. There is just a new screen size – size 0.

Voice Wars: Walmart vs Amazon battle for V-Commerce

v-commerce

Reflecting how threatened the competitors from Amazon’s gains in v-commerce, Google and Walmart have partnered together to fight back.Walmart will now be powering the Google Home’s Grocery and Home shopping experiences.

Google evolving it’s v-commerce ecosystem to counter Amazon

This comes on the heels of Apple announcing that it would henceforth use Google to power Siri. It makes sense – the Google’s voice solutions have heavily relied on its dominance in search – it’s knowledge of where and how to find and serve useful data. Google competitive advantages were:

  1. Excellent reach thanks to integration with Android and iOS devices
  2. Access and ability to process large amount of data into servable content

With the addition of Walmart as a source, Google has added a transactional dimension to it’s ecosystem. In addition, Google has also been actively soliciting large service corporations and partnering with them to build skills for its ecosystem.

Is this enough to take on Amazon’s v-commerce operations?

It depends – is Google’s voice ecosystem a competitive offering – certainly seems so on paper. But keep in mind that Google’s mobile reach is offset with the penetration into the US market Alexa has made through the Echo and now the Echo Dot. Similarly, Amazon’s delivery service, while having its flaws, is by far one of the most advanced logistics solutions. Finally, Amazon has already integrated product sales into Alexa and can leverage it’s existing suppliers.

At the end of the day, there is space for more than one player. Customers will be won or lost based on the ability to deliver as complete an experience through their ecosystem as possible. For now, Amazon is still in the lead.

AI, VR, Voice Search and DA News From China and India

voice search china india
IoT, Digitial Assistants, VR and voice search in China and India

Continuing our watch of developments within voice search and digital ecosystems, Neil Shen from Sequoia Capital China says the search for the next big platform will be the focus for 2018.

The use of the term “platform” is interesting – here he is talking about “post-smartphone” technologies, including voice search, digital assistants, IoT and VR. As discussed previously, these solutions will stack on a layer of data, accessed via AI, to provide the best services possible. And in many cases these technologies are expected to work together to deliver a solution rather than be individual platforms.

Amazon expands in India

In other international news, the Amazon Echo started shipping to India. Driven by a growing middle-class ready for new technologies and almost non-existent local competition (if you know of an company from the sub-continent working in the IoT, voice or digital assistant fields, we would love to feature them), Amazon has been heavily investing in the Indian market. As compared to news from China – which often is from competitors – this is a play to forward settle (to use a term from Civilization) the Indian market. Amazon has also expanded the skill kit and services offer to India, no doubt with approaches to large India media brands to integrate the technology.

Google your play?

Does Voice spell trouble for retailers and brands? – Follow-up

Shaun Varga shared his point of view on Mark’s article which came out earlier in the month – it is an ongoing conversation – how will voice search affect retailers and what can retailers do about it:

The answer to Mark Ritson’s voice search problems can be found in the pub

While Mark’s concerns are genuine, focusing on clear value proposition and it’s messaging, involvement level and personalization will have a role to play into how the dynamics of digital assistants and voice search will shape retail.

 

IoT updates from Japan and China

Japanese IoT and digital assistant market

The Japanese IoT and digital assistant market is on fire, and while the digital assistant may get replaced with more westernized solutions, the devices and their functionality certainly are worth watching out for.

In this article Marc covers some of the latest developments:

Better Than Smart Speakers? Japan Is Making Robot and Hologram Companions

The other country to watch out for – China:

While a decade ago, new technologies would rise from Western countries and be copied by the Chinese, we are now seeing the Chinese leapfrog the West. The Chinese ecosystem has been able to use it’s closeness to the manufacturing centers as well as develop an understanding of customer needs through digital means.

New facilities and solutions are also being deployed from China. Here are some interesting snippets:

  1. Chinese Customer are open to IoT
  2. ThinkPark China
  3. Qualcomm to open a smart car lab
  4. Voice Assistants and Digital Assistants

Check out how UX and design & IoT and devices are the interfaces of the future.

Does Voice spell trouble for retailers and brands?

Came across this great article search –

Mark Ritson: Voice search spells trouble for both brands and retailers

Mark is spot on:

  1. the vast majority of the brands we buy in our lifetime qualify as low-involvement purchases
  2. add the dangerous, disruptive ingredient of voice search and things change

Having said this, how things change depends on what actions retailers take today to shape their tomorrow. Another industry that faced similar challenges was the news publishing industry. It bought the tech companies coolaid, it opened it’s bread and butter – it’s content – to the likes of Google. It turned from a business monetized through subscriptions to one running on ads. And now it is bleeding to a slow death.

Retailers face a choice – the choice of how to embrace voice technology. Retailers have to understand what brings users to their store – and enhance the experience customers want with voice technology. Retailers have one advantage over the likes of Amazon and Google. They have personalized, localized, and targeted shopping data.

While it is not an easy road, it is an exciting one – one that will bring new players, products and strategies and reshape the industry.