AP Photo/Susan Walsh
BARCELONA, Spain — There’s a war raging between Google and Amazon over what could be the next major computing platform: voice-controlled AI assistants.
The two companies each have competing assistants, Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, and they’re both rushing to get them into as many devices as possible. On Sunday, Amazon announced that it has recruited a useful ally for that mission: Motorola.
Virtual assistants are controlled using only your voice. You can tell them to find you information on a certain subject, check your calendar, or control your (smart) home. It’s still early days, but Amazon and Google are betting that there’s huge potential as the tech continues to develop.
Initially, these assistants were kept exclusive to the companies’ own devices: Alexa was only on the Echo smart-home hub, while Google Assistant could only be found in the Google Home hub and the Google Pixel smartphone. But more recently, third-party hardware manufacturers have been brought onboard.
But more recently, Google and Amazon have brought third-party hardware manufacturers on-board.
Take Google, which on Sunday announced that its Google Assistant will become available for all Android phones, regardless of manufacturer, running Android 6.0 or newer. And at a press conference in Barcelona, Spain ahead of the Mobile World Congress conference on Sunday, Lenovo-owned Motorola also announced that it is partnering with Amazon to bring Alexa to its smartphones.
Initially, Motorola’s partnership with Amazon is limited to the Moto Z, a modular phone that Motorola launched last year that lets users attach hardware add-ons to the phone to customize it (think bigger speakers, better camera, etc.). Amazon is creating an Alexa mod that users can attach to their smartphones to integrate the virtual assistant.
But further down the line, Motorola said it plans to introduce Alexa to more of its smartphones — with no hardware add-on required.
We’re light on details right now; a Motorola employee at the event declined to provide more detail to Business Insider on timings and the phones that will be eligible. This isn’t the first time we’re seeing an Alexa-Android manufacturer partnership; in January Huawei announced that it was adding Amazon to its Mate 9 smartphone.
But this is a trend that will be of real concern to Google. Some of the biggest smartphone makers in the world — companies Google has worked with for years — are turning to its competitor to integrate the next potentially revolutionary technology.
And as the two companies continue to push their rival virtual assistants into every car, smartwatch, and fridge they can find, this war is only going to get more intense.