Coevolution occurs when the changes in a trait in a population of organism is directly influenced by the changes in some complementary trait in another population of organism, and vice versa. An evolutionary arms race is a great example of coevolution. It is a tug of war where change in one trait in a population causes a change in a trait in another population, feeding forward so that the cycle continues. These arms races are a well studied biological phenomenon. Such seems to be the case with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The launch of Amazon’s Echo brought us Alexa with her skills (like ordering a car through Uber), but limited natural language interactivity. Conversely, Google’s recently released Home features contextual interactivity (you can have a conversation with it rather than asking discrete questions), but performed few tasks. With Google opening Home to third-party developers, it quickly acquired capabilities to do work for the user. That brings us to the latest news: Amazon’s Echo is getting (limited) natural language abilities.
This is good news for consumers, for the tech industry over all, and even for Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The benefit to consumers are three fold. Their products will become increasingly relevant and easy to use. It also means more third party apps will come along to further increase the products’ benefits. It may even drive down price as the two technologies compete toe to toe.
The benefit to the tech industry lies in symbiosis, where the platform makes possible new technologies. Consider that Edison would not have developed the electric lightbulb without electricity; the discovery of electricity was necessary for the innovation leading to the lightbulb. More capable devices lays soil in which new technologies will be planted.
Echo and Home can benefit from this arms race as well. Although they each may get squeezed by the other, their overall appeal to the consumer will increase.
© Peter Roehrich, 2016