Amazon vs Google: A look Into the Fight and a Call for Change

Unfortunately for consumers, Amazon and Google’s feud not only continues, but was brought back into the spotlight last month when it escalated to include the refusal to sell even more of each other’s products. This time, Amazon is refusing to sell the new Nest (a company owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company) smart home products. Nest has, in turn, chosen to discontinue restocking its current product offerings on Amazon- meaning they will soon no longer be sold there. This is only the latest in a string of quarrels between Amazon and Google. For instance, last December, Google pulled access to YouTube off of Amazon products like the Fire TV and Echo Show. That action was a retaliation against Amazon for refusing to sell Google products like their Chromecast or Google Home. Why do they fight?

The answer is fairly simple: they are competing companies offering competing products, and one (Amazon) wants to use its online shop platform to prioritize its own products to the point of exclusion. A direct example of how these companies are competing can be seen in their smart speaker and smart home line ups. Google has their Home line of speakers, and Amazon has their various Echo products. Each is also pushing aggressively for their own line of virtual assistants featured within their respective products. Perhaps the most all-encompassing example is that each wants to be the sole source of your smart home system, something that is more or less an all-or-nothing venture.

They have a lot to gain from establishing a powerful foothold. Whichever company has the most ubiquitous virtual assistant will gain an advantage over all competitors based on the sheer amount of data collected - and data is king. The more data a company has behind its virtual assistant, the more accurate and more helpful it will be - not to mention the loads of valuable insight the companies will then have into people’s routines and interests that advertisers (as well as the companies themselves, Google and Amazon) would love to get a hold of. It is also worth noting that whoever establishes a lead will be difficult to unseat as the reigning champ of virtual assistants.

So perhaps the decision makers at Amazon decided to to give their products and the AI aboard them as much of an advantage as their online store position could bring. In other words, there may be a much larger and longer term plan behind these choices, making them more than just the result of competitors trying to limit the sales of the other’s product. That is not to say that the whole situation doesn’t seem a bit ridiculous. Just the idea that companies once solely based in search engine design and one in online bookselling would be competing to see who can place more devices in your home with their version of an AI assistant is nearly baffling. Now add in the fact that they are engaging in retaliatory tactics that appear decidedly childish, and the situation we see today seems comical- if it weren’t for the negative consequences that is.

When companies as large as Amazon and Google fight, someone is bound to take some hits, and as I hinted at earlier that that person is usually the consumer. The consumer will soon be the one who has to shoulder restricted choice when shopping on Amazon if they want to buy a smart thermostat from Nest. Another inconvenience we’ve mentioned is experienced by tens of millions of consumers with Fire TV: no more easy access to YouTube videos streamed right to their device. While the blame cannot fully be placed on one company, I would argue that Amazon is uniquely positioned as the instigator in most cases. Their refusal to sell Google’s products is a big factor in what’s going on.

I hope that Amazon will take strides to make its online shopping platform open to all competing brands and products. If I want to buy a Google Home, I will find a way, no Amazon required. Hopefully, Amazon will stick to simply featuring their products and advertising reasons why their product is the best. Let’s not exclude competitors from a major online marketplace. Let’s not have tech companies compete in what looks to be escalating levels of not working together. Let’s not get into the absurd situation where a perfectly viable, fully-functioning tech service is taken away from the people. There needs to be changes, and the sooner the better.