Google: if you support Amazon's Echo, you're cut off from Google Home and Chromecast

A closed-door unveiling of the forthcoming Google Home smart speaker platform included the nakedly anticompetitive news that vendors whose products support Amazon's Echo will be blocked from integrating with Google's own, rival platform.

These platforms are typically designed to allow their vendors to invoke Section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a felony to change their configurations in unauthorized ways, meaning that Google could convert its commercial preference ("devices either support Google Home or Amazon Echo, but not both") into a legal right ("we can use the courts and the police to punish people who make products that let you expand your device's range of features to support whichever platform you choose to use").

Of course, having a live, networked, corporate-controlled mic in your bedroom, living room and toilet is an idea that is so unbelievably terrible on its face that you could use it as the introduction to a term paper in 2040 explaining how human civilization nearly collapsed in the early 21st century.

The device is powered by Google Assistant: A smart, personalized assistant in the cloud that can respond to questions and commands, making use of the data Google has about its users.

Google Home also integrates with Google Cast, the same technology that powers Google’s popular Chromecast streaming adapter. Consumers will be able to launch audio from their favorite Cast-compatible streaming apps on Google Home, including Spotify, Tunein, Pandora, NPR One, SoundCloud and more.

At the same time, Google Home also works as a Cast sender, which means that it can launch media playback on other Cast-compatible devices. Consumers will, for example, be able to launch YouTube video playback on their TVs by telling Google Home what they want to watch. What’s more, Google Home can play music in sync with other Google Cast-capable speakers or Chromecast Audio-equipped stereo systems.

How Google Plans to Take Down Amazon’s Echo (EXCLUSIVE) [Janko Roettgers/Variety]

Notable Replies

  1. When I was a kid, our family didn't have a lot of money. My dad did some side work for a TV repair shop, and if a TV was beyond all hope the owner would let my dad take it home for parts.

    Our first family TV set was a Frankenstein's monster of something like an RCA case, Zenith screen, Electrolux power cord... (I don't know the actual combination).

    Nowadays you can't even support that many brands and be a recognised, official repair shop.

    This upstreaming, exclusivity crap just constantly cuts the bottom of the market out without letting healthy variety proliferate.

  2. Sqyntz says:

    never forget who is the product, and who is the consumer.

  3. This looks like a good place for a link to Schneier on 'Feudal Security.' Yes, in this case the issue is features; but it's exactly the same social/power relation at work.

    You aren't really supposed to even be a 'consumer'(who might have the temerity to shop around, the worthless ingrate); but to choose which lord to swear fealty to; and thereafter remain within your liege's demesne (sorry, "ecosystem").

    A product that supports multiple vendors' protocols is basically an incitement to treason; for only someone whose allegiance is wavering would need the option to consort with one of the enemy's protocols.

  4. I always figured that we are heading for a Snow Crash future... We'll just end up living in Google/Amazon/etc city states rather than Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong. Heck, Google already had proto-rat-things...

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