The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and this week's CES is clearly showing how what was once the way companies did business, has changed, and at the same time, what's old is new again and companies who once fought with each other are finding new ways to be allies. For example, Apple stopped licensing in 1997. Now they're redefining licensing by making it easier for anyone to access their iTunes platform. That's called distribution. What's next? Letting anyone make an iPhone-I think NOT.
Taken on face so far, it's clear Apple, Google and Amazon are dominating CES. News about assistants being deployed by multiple brands, new features and uses of the AI backed functionality and most of all iTunes ending up on Samsung, Vizio, and other smart TV brands. That and pure word play on the famed "what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas" line tied to your privacy.
Looking more closely, neither Amazon, Apple nor Google has really introduced any new products themselves. No new iPhones or MacBooks. No new Homes, Hubs, Mini's or Pixelbooks and no new Echos were introduced. But all three are dominating the news and over time, your wallets directly and indirectly. In everyway possible, they have mastered the hardware channel at this year's CES and at the same time proved that "software really is eating the world."
But what about all the news about them you say?
Well, its all indeed smoke and mirrors, with the media jumping on the names of Apple, Amazon, and Google when in reality what we have is a roll-out of services. Yes, those same services Tim Cook talked about is what caused the ill-informed stock market types to think Apple was a bad stock to hold onto, who misunderstand Google's real motivations, and who have yet to really see Amazon for what they are.
Apple wants to be the brand you will always trust. Their single billboard in Las Vegas is all about keeping what's your's, your's. It's also the premium brand. It's Bentley and Ferrari. Everyone else is Mercedes Benz and Chevy. They want iTunes to be the lure to keep you an Apple user. By aligning with the TV brands, they are skipping ahead of Spotify, Amazon Music, and Pandora. Musicians love Apple. The labels work with Apple. The motion picture and television industry co-exist with Apple. Pretty much everyone trusts Apple, and this week, Apple reminded everyone why.
Google wants to make it as easy as talking to collect as much information about you so you can have a better, and less expensive, but still, have an elegant ride. Android is their Mercury, their messenger and the Google Cloud is their playground. For Google, it's all about developing and deploying services. Hardware is their razor. The services are the blades. Google now has more razor manufacturers than anyone all lining up to be their blades' retailers.
Amazon is for every day. It's the shopping center, file cabinet, and switchboard. Amazon is Walmart's biggest fear. They sell Apple. Google. Samsung. Jeff Bezos is the most prominent arms merchant in the world and never has to fire a single shot. Amazon hardware is the Colt .45's of every man. But if you want a Sig (Google) or a Glock (Apple) he'll find a way to deliver one to you.
All the interest around voice interfaces is really about the death of the keyboard and the calculator. Just as we traded our landlines for smartphones and our calculators for digital spreadsheets, we're being migratory. Like the birds which fly south for the winter, we're leaving one nest for another. Instead of typing we merely talk.
But what's also interesting is how all three are avoiding being social media platforms. Instead, they have all chosen to leave that for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. That's smart thinking as the big three are really all about the customer. Consumer or enterprise. Social media is all about the interaction between people who in theory are friends (or not), and a means to amplify, extol and pontificate.
Who do I see as winners from CES?
- Zapier-without question the more cloud-based services with open API's based on REST come to market, the more Zaps get created, the more opportunities Zapier has.
- IFTTT-where Zapier has taken a cloud and software focus, IFTTT takes the hardware world and connects it to services. Both are able to be used with Google's Home Hub and Alexa, and not as much with Apple (yet).
- Google as Gmail, Calendar, Tasks, Apps integrate with more smart assistants but comes with a caveat. Google need to connect the Assistant to their business accounts soon as you can already do that with Alexa and Echos. I consider this like the way SMS was a decade ago. It wasn't interoperable with every operator. Then one day, it was. Like that, so will Home Hub and G Suite for business start working.
- Amazon – someone has to sell all the new hardware, and they've proven they are the best (place) to buy beating out Best Buy, Costco and eBay sellers for new, more because they deliver and this year literally will be.
- Qualcomm and Intel-their chips are everywhere. NVidia and MediaTek too. But for these four the looming 5G is where their chips really start to be cashed in.
Oh, how 2019 is going to be an exciting year as friends, foes, allies alike dance with one another, while still looking to stick the knife in their rivals backs.
But with all the hoopla, one question has to be looming in everyone's mind.
Where have you gone, John Legere?