Android cofounder Andy Rubin's Essential Home, a smart hub device meant to rival both the Amazon Echo and Google Home, will use smart assistants from its competitors.
Speaking to veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg during Recode's Code Conference in California, Rubin said he wants his Essential Home to run all three major voice assistants — Siri, Assistant, and Alexa.
He added that the move will cater to what consumers want, and allowing only one assistant on Essential Home is the wrong strategy.
"All of these [companies] have ecosystem envy and want to create their own ecosystem," said Rubin. "But consumers don't want just Samsung stuff in their house. They want diversity."
Rubin said anyone who'll allow only one assistant to run on their device is making a big mistake and that they're "going to fail."
Essential Home With Ambient OS
For the uninitiated, Rubin's Essential Home device has a screen, unlike Amazon Echo and Google Home. It's similar to Amazon's Echo Show, a $229.99 smart speaker with a 7-inch touchscreen. Essential Home runs Essential's proprietary Ambient OS, which is specifically designed to manage, operate, and run smart homes.
"With Ambient OS, your home is the computer," said Essential engineering chief Manuel Roman. "Ambient OS is aware of the physical layout of your home, the people that live in it, services relevant to both your home and the people within, and devices."
Does Essential Home Risk Operating System Fragmentation?
Ambient will follow an open source treatment, and Rubin said it will be developed and deployed similar to how the Android operating system is developed and rolled out. Mossberg, however, noted that this method has led to a phenomenon called fragmentation or, simply put, devices globally having different versions of Android. Mossberg honed his point further, saying that less than 30 percent of Android devices run the latest version of the OS.
"I think we have a solution for that. I think we have a better plan," said Rubin, not specifying what those plans are.
The core concept behind smart speakers is for there to be gateway through which users can communicate with, control, and operate their smart home devices, including those from third-party manufacturers. Rubin has long focused on designing software and hardware for interoperability. Making Essential Home run third-party virtual assistants lines up with that vision.
Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, And Siri
Speaking of virtual assistants, Alexa just recently gained timer and reminder features, allowing Amazon's Echo range of reminders to set reminders for events, appointments, and more. Like other Alexa skills, setting reminders can be done solely using an owner's voice.
Siri, on the other hand, hasn't had much updates in the past few months, although Apple's voice assistant could factor hugely during the company's WWDC 2017 presentation. Rumors suggest Apple is set to release a Siri smart speaker that'll rival Google Home and Amazon Echo. Details about that device remain slim, but it'll reportedly feature a touchscreen, similar to Essential Home.
Finally, Google Assistant is headed practically everywhere, thanks to Google's move to open its software development kit or SDK. This'll allow developers to tinker with Assistant and integrate it into their devices however they wish, potentially expanding the voice assistant's presence going forward.