If there was any doubt that we are entering the post-mobile era, this year’s CES ratified the fact. The absence of mobile integration as a core discussion, and “must show-off” checkbox, demonstrates that the ground has shifted. Where iOS and Android integrations were the must-have stamp of approval in previous years, this year the badge of honor was to show-off Alexa integration.
Of course, that’s not to say that mobile integration has been abandoned. Far from it; all home automation and other products still need to work well with mobile. The “post-mobile era” simply means that mobile is no longer the absolute center of the tech universe. There is now room for a new operating system or interface to control the surrounding tech devices, particularly as the range of devices that need connecting are primarily static devices within the home. The simple power of an always-listening voice interface that can work across a broad range of devices, (almost) regardless of brand, is compelling and is seen as a way to help drive demand for new tech categories such as home automation.
This fundamental shift in power regarding who controls the consumer connection has the potential to shake up the industry. As a case in point, the last such change was the shift from mundane mobile phones to mobile computing platforms (aka, the smartphone), which saw a dramatic change in tech leadership, with the ascent of Apple and Samsung in particular, the collapse of Nokia and Blackberry, and a twilight zone of struggling OEMs in the middle.
As such, while Amazon was clearly the winner at CES – without even showing up – Apple should be concerned that Siri was rarely mentioned as an interface for home automation solutions. Of course, Apple still holds a key card when it comes to the consumer, thanks to the iPhone, while Amazon has not succeeded in making an impression in the mobile space. As a result, Amazon still has to address the mobile part of the post-mobile era, which remains key; however, that does not necessarily mean that it needs to build a mobile phone. Rather, if Alexa’s momentum continues, there is the potential to communicate with Alexa through an app as opposed to owning the hardware… and let’s not forget, at least one Amazon app is typically found on most smartphones, regardless of the underlying OS.
While Amazon’s Alexa was last week’s big winner, Google has the potential to ultimately benefit the most. The combination of Google Home, Android phones, Nest devices, Android-based TVs and set-top devices provides a comprehensive base that supports a unified consumer/device communication via whatever device type the consumer happens to be using. Further, with tighter integration into the operating system, and its own search engine backing all of those random inquiries, Google certainly owns enough of the ecosystem to compete in whatever the post-mobile world brings… including more phones.