Amazon, Google settlement is harbinger for voice market unity

The breaking of bread between Amazon and Google late last week represents much more than belatedly putting to bed a long-standing spat. With Alexa now supporting YouTube across additional Amazon hardware, and Google Assistant embracing Prime Video on Google streaming devices, the move encourages cross-collaboration across the voice technology ecosystem – hopefully nourishing the soil for vendors and services to flourish.

Specifically, in the coming months, the YouTube app will launch on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs, while Prime Video will arrive across Android TV device partners – finally receiving Chromecast compatibility. Later this year, the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will land on Fire TV.

Our opening sentiment is perhaps most relevant to Android TV operator tier rather than over any other platform, due to its open approach and the abundance of OTT video technology vendors winning deals on the back of this operator tier, a trend which is on the cusp of breaking the US market.

The surprise streaming video agreement between Amazon and Google follows on from the very public fall out over blocking sales of Chromecast devices, prompting Google to shut off access to YouTube on the Amazon Show smart speaker (the one with a screen). This particular quarrel was settled last year, as the omission of YouTube from any device frankly isn’t a scenario even Amazon could survive without. After all, they make a decent team, with YouTube supporting countless budding content creators and Alexa offering opportunities via some 40,000 Skills.

In addition, this settling of ways suggests that greater cohesion between the two respective smart home platforms might be on the way. While most smart home users will likely have bought into one camp and will stick with it, there might be a new era of device interoperability within homes. However, the likelihood that one will be able to ask an Echo to query a Google service, instead of using the Google Assistant, does seem like a longshot.

Notably though, not a single mention of Alexa or Google Assistant actually graced the official announcement, although we can safely assume this is part and parcel of the agreement – and is another small shift towards our image of a future where multiple voice assistants live in harmony and the lines increasingly blur. That does, admittedly, seem a far cry from the fiery voice sector we see today.

So, the latest settlement suggests that while the war is far from over between the two technology heavyweights, there is at least an agreement that blocking access of services and halting hardware sales are petty disputes that which do not represent the interests of the broader industry.