YouTube officially pulled from Echo, Fire TV – more than just a spat

There is nothing festive about Google’s latest move to get even with Amazon as the two heavyweights continue to jockey for dominance in the smart home market. Not too long ago, most people’s money would have been firmly in the Google corner, but we feel that balance has shifted, and investor’s will be backing Amazon to emerge from this duel unscathed.

First of all, although we are not investment analysts by any means, it makes for interesting viewing to look at the comparative five-year market summaries for Amazon vs. Google. While Google’s stock price has grown 198% since December 2012, Amazon’s has soared 352.6% in the same period. Google still rules in terms of market cap, sitting at $709.4 billion compared to Amazon’s $553.7 billion, but the momentum over the past few years is with Amazon.

This week saw Google pull the plug on YouTube compatibility on Amazon’s Echo Show and Fire TV devices, in a defiant stand against Amazon’s decision to redirect to a web version of YouTube – meaning the YouTube experience on Echo was missing some key features found in the app. This was quite sneaky from Amazon, as it dropped YouTube support on its Echo smart speakers and then went about building the web version without Google’s knowledge or compliance.

Google has highlighted the voice control functionality of YouTube on Echo and Fire TV devices as a violation of its Terms of Service. This suggests the feud is about much more than Amazon refusing to sell Chromecast devices on its e-commerce site, it is about dominating the swelling voice market. It hints at quite the opposite of a trend we are coming to expect from the smart home market, that smart speakers will house multiple voice assistants. These multi-assistant devices are on the market today, but the major players like Amazon, Google and Apple are standing firm – intent on pushing their own voice assistant technologies to own the entire ecosystem, not just a slice of it.

The addition of Fire TV to the YouTube black-list is a significant part of this announcement, and is perhaps the only factor that may persuade Amazon to cave in and offer to build bridges, but an outcome we think remains unlikely. Incompatibility between Prime Video and Google Cast is another major point of contention.

A YouTube spokesperson said in a statement this week, “We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon then responded to the statement in an email to The Verge: “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website. We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.”