What interests me the most is how, despite the very differing cores of each company, we are seeing the big five attack the same opportunity from their home turf.
In the short term, the bet is on smart virtual assistants. All of the five except Facebook has one.
Amazon being the most open (and Microsoft-like in strategy) by opening up the platform and building strong partnerships to extend the ecosystem. Their approach tightly integrates with its ecommerce engine of course. As previously mentioned, social is the piece it also wants to own itself.
Apple is focusing on music, which given the strength of iTunes should be of no surprise, though I suspect it will overhaul Siri every year until it is a really strong competitor again albeit within its closed Apple ecosystem. One for the fanboys ;)
Google is focused on its assistant being the best at providing information, building on its historic search capabilities. This should mean that it has the most helpful assistant over time but can it provide the breadth of services that the others are building?
Finally there is Microsoft, which under Nadella has the clearest vision it has had for a long time. They are focused on productivity. This potentially makes it a strong player in the business space but the consumer space is where the growth is today. Can it succeed here? I’m sure it will find a dozen or so hardware partners and flood the market but it needs to deliver on partnerships like Amazon has done to succeed. It could equally succeed as a business though without the hardware piece and just deliver its productivity capabilities through the other platforms.
What about Facebook? Well I am sure there will be addons across all the platforms for Facebook and WhatsApp. That is one reason I don’t believe Amazon’s messaging platform can succeed without more significant capabilities.
The smart assistant devices are also just a version one technology. They’ll integrate into everything and be everywhere. In your car, phone, TV and laptop. Probably even your fridge. To truly work though, they need to not just wait for our question but need to understand what is happening around us. The research Facebook is doing into augmented and virtual reality will deliver the next leap in smart assistant technology. The market may have passed Facebook by then though.