Google Home versus Amazon Echo 

According to a recent report from the New York Times, Google (GOOGL  ) is set to enter the voice-activated home device market. Google's device will be called Google Home-- it's a virtual agent that answers simple questions and carries out basic tasks. The Amazon Echo is Google's main competitor. In the past two years, Amazon (AMZN  ) has sold three million units of the Echo. Google Home will enter the voice-activated home device market this coming fall. 

In terms of consumer technology, virtual agents powered by artificial intelligence are becoming the new norm. In Fall 2011, Apple (AAPL  ) released Siri, sparking international interest toward the consumer application of virtual agents. But Amazon's Echo has been even more dominant. The small, voice activated smart home speaker oozes futuristic characteristics. The Echo can play morning headlines upon command, play the most recent episode of one's favorite podcast, and even turn off the lights. Furthermore, the Echo allows consumers to hail a ride from Uber, order a pizza from Domino's, or stream music straight from Spotify -- again, all upon voice command. The Echo retails for $180.  

Siri - osobisty asystent, który działa na systemie operacyjnym Apple iOS
Siri - osobisty asystent, który działa na systemie operacyjnym Apple iOS

Both the Echo and Google Home have to plugged in, which improves audio quality. Despite its countless high-tech futures, some people are buying the Echo just for its speakers. Naturally, there are areas where Google Home might not compete with the Echo. For instance, when it comes to extensibility and compatibility with over devices and services, Google Home reveals shortcomings relative to the Echo. 

Based on the progress of Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, it's clear that Google has let the competition "catch-up" in the virtual agent market. In addition, Staples (SPLS  ) and Samsung (KRX: 005930) have smart-home products, and multiple smaller companies compete in this market as well (not necessarily in voice-control). Regardless, financial analysts think Google needs to pick up steam, or else it risks being outpaced by the firms that are pioneering the virtual agent market. For instance, Amazon has already come out with two more Echo products. The Echo Dot is much smaller and has to plugged into a power outlet, but has poor audio quality. However, the Dot can be connected to a superior speaker via BlueTooth or cable. Meanwhile, the Echo Tap is portable and can run off batteries. 

Echo - domowy asystent zaprojektowany przez Amazon
Echo - domowy asystent zaprojektowany przez Amazon

It's worth noting that Google flirted with the "digital agent" market when it purchased Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014. Nest produces tech-savvy home gadgets, like smart thermostats and wifi cameras, and operates as an independent Alphabet unit separate from Google. Google has yet to disclose whether or not Google Home will interact with Nest devices or contain Thread (Nest's wireless communication protocol). 

Interestingly, some reports claim that Google made the decision to not include voice-control in the Nest thermostat, as doing so would raise suspicion that Google was listening in on people's private lives. The decision to not equip Nest products with voice-control might come from the same camp that decided to dump Boston Dynamics. In addition to not offering short-term profits, Boston Dynamics could have potentially tarnished the company's image by making people think Google is in the business of producing humanoid robots who will eventually take over the world. While these claims might be far-fetched, they help explain Google's decision to let their competition level the playing field in the virtual agent market. 

Recent financial concerns 

Apple (AAPL  ) stock recently dipped below $90 for the first time in almost two years. Last week, Apple's value declined to $493 billion, while Alphabet(GOOGL  ) -- Google's parent-- held a value of $498 billion. Note, both companies have experienced recent negative growth. So far this year, Apple shares have lost 14% of their value, while Alphabet shares have dropped 7%. 

In light of this negative growth, both companies have spent time convincing investors that all is well. Apple continuously stresses to investors that its massive growth phase fueled by iPhone sales has NOT come to an end. And Alphabet has spent its time justifying costly investments. For instance, investors have been worried about Alphabet pouring money into business units that aren't profitable in the short-term. These business units include self-driving cars, finding a cure for cancer, and Boston Dynamics (a robot development division).