Top news stories for Episode 14 (October 5, 2017):
1) GOOGLE MAKES SOME NOISE: In a Wednesday press event, Google unveiled an array of voice-first products including the Google Home Max, Google Home Mini, and others. At least one writer now has simplified the voice technology landscape into Amazon vs. Google.
Does the panel agree? Are the announcements today enough for Google to compete successfully against Amazon? And do other entrants like Apple have any hope to compete now at this point?
1c) The Voicebot.AI Story Of The Week: Part of Google's lengthy product parade involved the "Pixelbuds," voice-first earbuds designed to compete against Apple's AirPods and which made news by being able to translate languages in real-time.
2) Convergence! Sonos' new "One" speaker integrates Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri all on the same device.
3) Amazon takes Alexa into new markets, heading into India and Japan.
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Panel for Episode 14 (October 5, 2017):
Brian just published issue number 6 of Multiplex Magazine called The Enchanted Loom. He explores a new AI concept for Voice First systems called Artificial Understanding. Get the Read Multiplex App at the iOS store and subscribe for this and the entire catalog of magazines.
Brendan Hersh is a homeschooled student who has always loved computers and technology. He opened his first web store when he was 8 and is now building websites for clients, teaches HTML/CSS classes, has appeared multiple times on HLN, https://youtu.be/LY7mK9RT57Q and develops apps for the Google Home.
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:10] Hi! And welcome back to This Week In Voice, Episode 14, for Thursday October 5th, 2017. My name is Bradley Metrock - I'm CEO of a company called Score Publishing based here in Nashville, Tennessee.
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:25] Our sponsor for This Week In Voice is VoiceXP, blazing the trail in voice technology. VoiceXP is taking the lead in developing Alexa skills for some of the best brands in the world. With VoiceXP, all you have to do is say it to revolutionize your marketing strategy. These folks are doing amazing things. You need to check them out. You need to go to the browser - www.voicexp.com - you'll be glad that you did.
Bradley Metrock: [00:00:58] We've got a fantastic show today. A lot of news to get to. Great panel - our youngest panelist ever! Brendan Hersh, say hello.
Brendan Hersh: [00:01:08] Hello, glad to be here!
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:12] Yes, thank you very much for joining us. Brendan is a home-schooled student in Florida who has always loved computers and technology. He opened his first Web store when he was eight and is now building web sites for clients. He teaches HTML and CSS classes. He's appeared multiple times on HLN, and has developed apps for Google Home. (I'm embarrassed to even try to think of what I was doing at age 16.) Brendan, thank you for joining us. Thank you very much for setting the time aside.
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:41] And we are also joined by Brian Roemmele. Brian, say hello.
Brian Roemmele: [00:01:44] Hi, Bradley, and hi, Brendan and everybody!
Bradley Metrock: [00:01:49] Brian, thank you very much for joining us once again. So tell us what you're working on right now? What issue of Multiplex Magazine are we on, and what's covered?
Brian Roemmele: [00:01:59] Boy, I am working very diligently on the October issue. I'm a little strange - I do the issue towards the end of the month. But this one might actually come out mid-month, and I'm diving deeper and deeper into how we are going to build the next three generations of #VoiceFirst interactions. I've already, in the earlier magazines, covered complete dialogues, and that's the very next thing. Complete dialogues means that you're not just asking a question and getting an answer. You have continuity and a continuous context. And I will be covering that in much more detail in the next issue. I have some surprises, because I'm going to expose some new things that I don't think anybody has heard of, and how to do this effectively. So that's what I'm working on.
Bradley Metrock: [00:02:45] Very cool! We'll have to check that out, and we will get the link to that up on ThisWeekInVoice.com - with that, let's get to the news. Quite a bit of news this week. The center of gravity in voice technology shifted ever so slightly this week - back in the direction of Google, from residing almost exclusively in Amazon. This Wednesday at a press event, Google unveiled an array of #VoiceFirst products, including the Google Home Max, Google Home Mini, and others. At least one writer compared - and we have this linked on the page - this battle that's emerging compared to some other technological battles in the past, and it really shapes up to be Amazon vs. Google, heading into the end of 2017. Brendan, I'm going to start with you: do you like what you saw out of the Google announcements this week? And how do you see Google being able to compete against Amazon with some of the stuff that they rolled out?
Brendan Hersh: [00:03:50] They took a big step in the right direction to compete against Amazon. I think of all the things they released - I think Google Home Mini is the biggest part of everything they released. Because with that Wal-Mart promotion too, you can get them for $25. And I think a lot of people are thinking of these smart speakers as things that are like - oh, they're really expensive, they're hard to get to work. But for $25 you could have Google Home that you could talk to, anywhere. And I think that's big.
Bradley Metrock: [00:04:18] The impression that people my age get, and older, is that young folks are really flocking to this technology and I think there's been data on that. So, you've got an Echo device at home. How do you interact with that? Do you ask it the weather, or ask it for other stuff? What do you do?
Brendan Hersh: [00:04:38] A lot of times it's actually used as a calculator.
Bradley Metrock: [00:04:41] OK!
Brendan Hersh: [00:04:42] I ask it how to solve math problems. But I also use it as trying to ask all sorts of facts - because if I think "Oh, I need to go Google that" - I try Alexa first.
Bradley Metrock: [00:04:51] Cool. Yeah. I wanted to dig in a little bit, dig deeper on that, just because we've got a 16 year old in our midst - let's find out what a 16 year old does with the technology. And that's very interesting. Brian, what are your thoughts on Google's announcement?
Brian Roemmele: [00:05:06] Well, first off I've got to say I'm just so absolutely impressed by Brendan, and honored to actually share a microphone with him. He's absolutely brilliant. Anybody listening - I think we talked about this pre-show - what were you doing when you were 16? A lot of us were doing a lot of different things. I am just really honored. So - I want to also kind of go on the coattails of the age cohort. I've been so fortunate in the last four years, pretty much - maybe five, but let's say more actively in the last four years - I've had over 300 open office hours for people that were specifically designing around Voice First AI, and the vast majority are below the age of 25 - and a few of them are below the age of 18. I have only talked to two individuals that were 16. So this is definitely something that I've seen deeply impacts the younger cohort. And I think the reason is: this is something that they're growing up with, and it's becoming a de facto. It's an acceptance. It's like my children will touch the screen of my iMac and my MacBook Pro, and they're asking me "Why doesn't it move? Why can't I move things around?" And so they've already come through the world seeing a certain modality - and I think voice is going to do that. And a lot of us older folks may be set in our ways and say "Well, I COULD Google that - I COULD get out a calculator ..." but you see what Brendan is doing is - well, it's right there. And I think that's only going to continue.
Brian Roemmele: [00:06:46] Now onto Google's event - it was quite a big deal. And I absolutely agree with what Brendan is saying. Getting that price point down into the sub-$25 range is a magical number. It's a psychological number, and I can point to a whole lot of psychological researches about pricing of technology, etc. - there are lot of studies about that and I follow them closely. What Wal-Mart is doing - and of course it's a promotion, that's how these things always start out, and then you find ways to subsidize later on - what Wal-Mart is basically saying is "OK, Amazon, I see you and we're coming for you." Wal-Mart is seeing this as a road into the home, and being able to perform voice commerce hopefully equal to Amazon, or maybe surpassing it, with the technology they have from Jet, which is the e-commerce company they acquired. And the idea that Google has is pretty apparent, from all the interactions I had from that event - and that is, they want one of these in every room.
Bradley Metrock: [00:07:55] Did you see also that the New York Times is giving away Google Homes?
Brian Roemmele: [00:08:02] Yes, this is a big deal.
Bradley Metrock: [00:08:03] Yeah, with a subscription. And then also the Pixel - I think if you buy the Pixel 2, you get one ...
Brian Roemmele: [00:08:07] You get one free. Yes. And we're only at the tip of the iceberg of this. My thesis has always been that the entry-level devices will be free, and they will be in everybody's home, and there will be one in every room, and there'll be one in the garage, in the basement, in the car. There'll be one at the grocery store, down every aisle. I mean, this is going to expand. But the thing that really struck me is Pixel Buds - not so much in the design; the design of Pixel Buds is nothing phenomenal. It's really good design, but it's not to the level of what AirPods were designed to, and that's ...
Bradley Metrock: [00:08:49] And I want to ask Brendan about that as we get into talking about the Pixel Buds. It's a perfect segue. Brendan, first of all - do you agree with everything that Brian just said? Any thoughts on that?
Brendan Hersh: [00:09:00] Yeah, I think what Google is trying to do with the Minis - I mean for a hundred dollars, which is cheap for one of the higher end, like Alexas or Google Homes - for 100 bucks you can get four Minis: one for the bedroom, one for the kitchen, one for the living room ..
Brian Roemmele: [00:09:17] Absolutely!
Brendan Hersh: [00:09:17] ... one for another bedroom. So I think they're trying to just get them everywhere.
Bradley Metrock: [00:09:22] To do that math - I need to go ask Alexa to do that math.
Brian Roemmele: [00:09:28] I've got to ask, Brendan: do you think you're going to go Mini, too? You're going to have both in the house?
Brendan Hersh: [00:09:35] I don't know. I think that the Minis are definitely promising.
Brian Roemmele: [00:09:40] But, would you would you invest? Would you say "I've got to have both of them"?
Brendan Hersh: [00:09:45] Hmm...
Brian Roemmele: [00:09:45] Not yet, right?
Brendan Hersh: [00:09:47] I don't know.
Bradley Metrock: [00:09:48] That's interesting.
Brian Roemmele: [00:09:49] Yeah. You know, the thing that I always find fascinating is that we psychologically invest in one or the other technology, even though I think we're going to own all of them. It's just that mentally we tend to use one more over the other. And I notice people who are very Siri-dependent find it harder to use Google, but easier to use Amazon.
Brendan Hersh: [00:10:15] I've always had Apple stuff, and I used Siri for a while. Then I tried using Google Home for a while - and now Siri just seems not nearly as good as it used to.
Bradley Metrock: [00:10:28] Brian, we talked several times in previous episodes about your belief that there will be several different devices and voice assistants in the home - and you know, that's possible, or I could see it going either way. I don't have too strong of an opinion on that. But for there to be multiple devices along the same lines, they've got to have compelling, competitive advantages - and that brings us to talking about the Pixel Buds.
Bradley Metrock: [00:10:57] Pixel Buds are not news. Without the Translation ability added on top - the Translation ability is just ... it's a freight train running through AirPod revenue in 2018 ...
Brian Roemmele: [00:11:17] Haha, Applesauce time!
Bradley Metrock: [00:11:17] Well, you know - I don't like what Apple's doing and I'm not shy about it, but I feel like this is somewhat objective. Who's going to buy AirPods when you can buy Pixel Buds? - now, I'm assuming some things. I'm assuming the same price, or approximate. I'm assuming same functionality with all smartphones, or approximate. But if you check those boxes - who's going to buy AirPods when you can just buy Pixel Buds and this really cool Star Trek functionality? (And I understand that they work a little bit differently in practice - you've got to set them up, and all that.) The Pixel Buds blow me away. Brendan, what were your thoughts upon seeing the Pixel Buds? Are you just as excited? Or sort of ho-hum?
Brendan Hersh: [00:12:04] Yeah, I saw the Pixel Buds, and they're impressive. I got the AirPods months ago, when they first came out. Just because I was sick of trying to get my arms around the headphone wire coming out of my computer. But Pixel Buds, I think, are going to do a lot better than the AirPods. I think having a string between them, too - that's a big plus. And that Translation functionality is going to be incredible.
Bradley Metrock: [00:12:34] So, Brendan - unlike the Google Mini, where the answer on if you're going to buy that is clearly NO - the Pixel Buds: that's something you could ask for, like as a present or do some chores and earn some money for that? Like it's in that range?
Brendan Hersh: [00:12:49] They seem really cool. I think they have a lot more functionality than the AirPods. And if they're below the price, then Apple's going to have a big run for their money.
Brian Roemmele: [00:13:00] The reality is: it is a very basic design, but it's a good design. But that's not the real thing. What you said, Bradley, is exactly the thing. They have captured the flame, and that is this sort of WOW effect that is uniquely an Apple trait. This was probably one of the few moments where I think Google really shined in capturing an Apple moment. And personally - if I was involved, I would have demonstrated this in an entirely different way. Not putting anybody down, but I don't think they realize what they have here, because this is beyond - all right, they did it as a one last thing. But there should have been more drama. I would have done other things. But that said - what we have is a true science fiction promise - and that is, the ability of the Babel fish and all those sci-fi kind of concepts. And I look at it even deeper. If you look through the arc of history, one of the reasons for so many conflicts in the world has been a lack of communication and language and culture. But language primarily starts the problem. Language does not always work. Right? People are talking one language, they speak another language, and then you've got to try to translate it. No translation is ever perfect.
Brian Roemmele: [00:14:27] I've written about this. People would ask me "Well, gosh - Google Translate isn't perfect!" and I go "Well, find me a translator that's perfect." Because two human translators will come out with two different sorts of nuances between one language and the other, especially if the languages are kind of verbose. Some Asian languages coming into English is very hard, and sometimes Russian into English. So this is the beginning of liberation between people. You can literally walk around a country and have a conversation with almost anybody and cover 90 percent of what humans talk about with with a free rein. Unfortunately right now it's got to be paired with the Pixel Phone. I think I've heard rumors that they will move this to be an app on other phones. We'll see. I think they're probably going to keep it exclusive to Pixel 2 for a while, to drive sales. I personally think that for some travelers, Google is going to sell Pixel 2 Phones specifically for this Translation capability. That's how powerful I think it's going to be.
Brendan Hersh: [00:15:29] Are the Pixel Buds included in with the Pixel 2? Or is that a separate purchase?
Brian Roemmele: [00:15:35] It's a $159 purchase.
Brendan Hersh: [00:15:38] That's exactly what the AirPods are, I think.
Brian Roemmele: [00:15:40] Yeah. It's I think a reasonable price for a system that with the docking mechanism, you have 24 hours of use. I think it's 15 minutes of quick charge. So basically you can wear them I think four hours continuously, 15 minutes down, in 24 hours. So it's got long battery life. I know a couple that recently got together - they talk two different languages - and they were using Google Translate to communicate. She was crying. She said this is going to absolutely fundamentally change your life.
Brian Roemmele: [00:16:14] It hit me at the moment as I was tweeting that Google had this magic moment available to them, and they did exceedingly well. But I always get frustrated - as I am as an outsider - that if I was in there, this would have been something that would have really have been like the 1984 commercial for them.
Bradley Metrock: [00:16:34] Well, I'll tell you - the idea, the concept - I'm so burnt out on these Apple press events that are, let's be honest, sort of disrespectful of people's time - they take so long, and things like that. I'm burnt out on those. But the concept of watching a Google event? No. Absolutely not.
Brian Roemmele: [00:17:01] I wouldn't say make it Apple-like, but ...
Bradley Metrock: [00:17:04] Hang on, let me conclude that thought. After this Translate thing comes out, and I'm reading about this after the fact, and I missed that? OK. You've managed to turn this around, to where the next Google event - I will NOT miss it. And that's a big statement in and of itself. And Brian, I didn't think nearly as much about the business applications.
Brian Roemmele: [00:17:32] It's huge.
Bradley Metrock: [00:17:33] Yeah, that is absolutely massive.
Brian Roemmele: [00:17:35] I can see this at theme parks, hotels. I can see it in areas where there are multi-lingual environments.
Bradley Metrock: [00:17:43] Well, not only that - I was more referring to just B2B. A good family friend of ours - he's retired now - but he would go on behalf of his organization all over the world to represent his company. He was at the upper executive management level, and he would have to spend a week or two, if not more, getting prepared for cultural differences.
Brendan Hersh: [00:18:11] Learning the language?
Bradley Metrock: [00:18:12] Learning the language was part of it, for sure. And then also sort of getting up to speed on cultural differences and etiquette at dinner and things of that nature. If you cut the language part out of it, then not only does that remove, straight up, 50 percent of the workload preparing for an international trip - but then it also sets you up for more success in the second part of it, so you can be more respectful of the culture, and this, that, and the other - if you're getting that translation in real time. I think it's phenomenal. I think you're right: Pixel 2 phones could become the new corporate enterprise device du jour, if this thing works as well as advertised.
Brian Roemmele: [00:18:56] Yes, and I think it's only going to get better. I think the use case is going to come out of the woodwork. I mean, I could see using it over a telephone where you're not even physically present with the person - and there's ways to maybe interact with that, and to do in real time through Google Home platform. It is where Google really does shine. And I've got to give them a lot of credit for that. There's a lot of problems that I see within Google. There's a lot of cultural problems in the way they see #VoiceFirst technology. I mean, getting on stage and saying "We're AI first" - and then spending the entire time talking about #VoiceFirst technology primarily - is sort of like talking about the transmission and the engine and not the Tesla. This is the problem with engineering culture. That's why it is #VoiceFirst. It's about: what is the user interface? And there's a reason for why I'm saying this.
Brian Roemmele: [00:19:52] Psychologically, it makes you look at your mission as a company and as a leader much differently. Instead of getting caught in the minutia of "Wow, we're using AI! Look what we're doing with AI!" - it's like "Look what we can command with our voice!" ... and AI falls into the background. And so, getting back to the Buds - and I can probably talk forever about it, but I want to really make this point. The whole idea ... let's look at Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking is a good example of what humans do: they find a way to communicate.
Brendan Hersh: [00:20:29] I love Stephen Hawking. I've read his books.
Brian Roemmele: [00:20:32] Yes! And he is an abnormality in medicine, in the sense that he should have been gone within months of his diagnosis. Yet he is with us. He is a modern Einstein times two, as far as I'm concerned. Yet he is compelled. And when I got to meet him, he was still working the board with his finger. He was able to kind of ... it would take a tremendous amount of his energy to communicate through his voice synthesizer, yet he wanted to communicate. He WANTED to say things. He could have written them and had somebody read them. But he wanted to SAY them through his method. Right? And we cannot deny that humans, from a deep level, feel this way. And I think what Translate is touching upon - and I think it's going to be a slow roar - and like you said, Bradley, you barely knew it happened. I think I timed it: it was seven minutes. This is the most amazing thing. It was about seven minutes in that show, and I think they weren't quite sure how it was going to be received. (I would have known.) But anyway, getting back to the point - the point is, you're looking at the opportunity for humans to communicate to 40 languages - ultimately up to over 150, maybe 200 languages at some point. But definitely 40 languages, out of the box. THAT'S a big deal.
Brian Roemmele: [00:21:57] Now, in America, speaking English - it sort of sounds like "Oh, big deal. I speak, and if anybody around the world needs to figure it out, they translate." That's a problem. That's a cultural problem. It's to be able to speak in that tongue, and to be able to hear them in their tongue, and to interact perhaps in real time - that's a phenomenal thing. And I think Google was the first to grab that. And by the way - it could have been Apple. It could have been AirPods. But it wasn't, and that's the shocking part about this. We talked about it pre-show, and we talked about the differences between AirPods. AirPods is an elegantly engineered product. It is beautiful. I have nothing negative to say about it.
Brendan Hersh: [00:22:37] A couple years ago I saw something on Kickstarter that was almost like a little remote, like the Apple TV remote - and you hold down on it, and you say what you want into it, and you point it at another person - and it would translate the language. But I thought that there was something kind of off with it - how it would be just awkward to have to talk into a remote to talk to other people. But I think these Buds are really starting to make it more natural.
Brian Roemmele: [00:23:03] Brendan, do you feel like if you had this, you'd have this sort of new superpower?
Brendan Hersh: [00:23:10] For sure! Yeah!
Brian Roemmele: [00:23:13] I mean, that's the thing. And I think once that really touches people on a much deeper level, they'll realize ... I mean, we live in a world where ... can we do with more communication? I think, damn straight we could! Without any filters, without anybody translating for us. And what I mean by that is: a lot of times we hear about what's going on somewhere else in the world, through some other party, whether it be news or whatever. And that is in a form - a translation is also a re-juxtaposition of what, maybe, that person really did say. Business-to-business is probably the silent use case of this, that is going to just ... any type of medium to large business that wouldn't have one of these to accommodate customers that may walk into a physical retail store, come on a telephone, or whatever - and they want to, need to, have a real-time conversation.
Bradley Metrock: [00:24:10] It reminds me so much of the early days of the iPhone. In the early days of the iPhone, you had a lot of people in business - not just business, but a lot in business - saying "Wow, look at that toy - the iPhone. If you're a serious individual, you've got to have a BlackBerry." You remember that. I could easily see something similar happening with these Pixel Buds, because they really reduce the AirPods back down to toy status. Right? If you're going to get AirPods - why? It's only one reason: because it's convenient for you, and it's sort of a curiosity, sort of a toy. If you're going to buy something and you're a serious business person, or serious in some other way, and all things remain equal between the Pixel Buds and the AirPods - a hundred out of a hundred times, you're going to choose the Pixel Buds. Because the other part of the equation is: "Quick, tell me what the differences are between the new iPhones and the new Google phones. Oh, OK - you can't do it?" Then you're going to go with where the Pixel Buds are. Someone needs to take the Pixel Buds and make sure they can translate Southern Hick - so I can bring them into parts of Alabama and Tennessee where everybody (including me) thinks that they're speaking a foreign language.
Brian Roemmele: [00:25:46] You've got to do that. And you've got to do that for New Jersey, because the Jersey accent really confuses people sometimes. But if we're moving off Google ... Brendan sent me a picture of the Pixelbook keyboard with that dedicated Assistant key ...
Brendan Hersh: [00:26:06] Yeah!
Brian Roemmele: [00:26:07] ... and he rightly pointed out that that was a big dedication on Google's part. Brendan, you've got to dive into that. What were your thoughts when you saw that key?
Brendan Hersh: [00:26:16] If I saw a new MacBook come out with a dedicated Siri key, I would've thought they're crazy. But I think Google has built up a foundation on the Assistant enough that they can actually put a key on there and not think it's going to be a flop. Because I think that the Assistant is growing enough that it's going to be the main voice assistant.
Brian Roemmele: [00:26:42] What do you think of the Pixelbook in general? I mean, would you invest? Would you be in that direction, or are you still iBook or a MacBook?
Brendan Hersh: [00:26:51] I have a MacBook Pro. But if I was more of a Google device user, I would totally go get that new Pixelbook. I mean, I think that people used to kind of be against the old Chromebooks - they don't work that well, you can't even get apps on them. I think that's what educators liked a lot about them, because they didn't have to worry about the kids playing with their own apps. I think now this Pixelbook is going to be a big step forward, and people are actually taking these Google computers more seriously, like "Oh, I can actually use that for my day-to-day work."
Bradley Metrock: [00:27:29] I completely agree. The Pixelbook looks really good, and the new MacBook Pros with the touch bar actually do have a Siri key, except the difference is - it's incredibly annoying.
Brendan Hersh: [00:27:41] I already took it off mine.
Bradley Metrock: [00:27:43] That's funny! So you already ...
Brendan Hersh: [00:27:46] Yep, took it right off.
Brian Roemmele: [00:27:47] Yeah, yeah. I know a lot of people that do. You know, the thing about the bar is another problem within Apple culture. We talked about this earlier today. It's "we must not touch the screen of our laptops," and that is BS. If the touch screen was around before the laptop, it would be absolute insanity to build a laptop that does not have a touch screen. And Apple sort of put this series of software keys along the upper, where there used to be function keys. Nobody in the Apple world ever used function keys to any great degree. But Apple brought it back with this visual board, which from the eye angle when you're looking at your keyboard - it's almost invisible for most people. It's not an area where any of us are trained to look. It's not an area where any of us are trained to actually touch. And the idea is great. I wouldn't want to see it go away now that it's there. But the reality is - it should have been on the screen. And if you are really serious about Siri, you would give it a hard key. You would make Siri very, very responsive, and you would have a way to recover from a misstep. The problem with Siri on OS X is ... the delay of getting Siri up, and the delay of getting rid of Siri.
Brendan Hersh: [00:29:13] Yeah.
Brian Roemmele: [00:29:14] It's absolutely wrong. It has to be graceful.
Brendan Hersh: [00:29:18] I pretty much stopped using Siri altogether on my phone, because I use the iOS 11 data and now it takes a good 30 seconds for Siri to go from holding down the button to talking to her, a good minute to process it, and then I get "here's what I found on the web for: what is 10 plus 10?"
Brian Roemmele: [00:29:39] Yeah, yeah!
Bradley Metrock: [00:29:40] You could send out a carrier pigeon in that amount of time.
Brian Roemmele: [00:29:41] Yeah, you could count your toes. And what we're talking about is indicative of why I'm sort of frustrated, and I'd almost do it for a charity to lead Apple out of this wilderness. I mean, they have incredibly brilliant people. They have incredibly brilliant technology - with VocalIQ in Cambridge in the U.K. they have some of the most advanced self-learning AI systems. Yet none of it is being used right now.
Bradley Metrock: [00:30:11] We need to be rooting for the executive management team to be purged like they should be purged. That's the reason that nothing is moving, because you've got this cabal of old-timers that think that because they were there when Steve Jobs was there, that that's their permanent job security, they can do whatever. They need to go. There is no fresh thinking ...
Brian Roemmele: [00:30:35] Right, there is no fresh thinking right now. I'm putting it into the universe: "Brendan Hersh is leading up the voice systems over at Apple. Get somebody who is already doing programming, knows how it works - and you can't find a fresher, more insightful way to move a company." And I mean that, seriously.
Brian Roemmele: [00:30:58] But you know, the reality is this: if you're going to constantly re-invent yourself, you have to have the bold moves. You have to have the ability to say the winds have changed ... and you know Jeff Bezos' Day One philosophy really is the example of why Amazon is leading. They're basically saying: you have to catch what is really the part of what people want, and you have to go all-force with it. And Apple will more nuance that and say "We establish what people want and then they follow us." Yes, but that's not always true for Apple. That's true for some of what Apple does; some of the other things Apple is define the things that people have really liked, like a pen. Like touchscreens. None of these things Apple invented, and they somehow nuanced them into something great. But I'm not all down on Apple. There is one more event we're going to see from Apple, perhaps this year. We might call it the HomePod event, and we might see some surprises.
Bradley Metrock: [00:32:02] Well ... let's hope so.
Brian Roemmele: [00:32:02] That's why I'm giving it so much energy. I'm trying to OOMPH. I'm using the OOMPH technique to motivate anybody that's hearing my voice within Apple: You better give this your best shot. 2017 needs something bigger from you, Apple.
Brendan Hersh: [00:32:20] If I were at Apple, what I would do - I think that touch bar is a good idea - but I think what they really need to do next is to take the keyboard and turn each one of those keys into a smaller touch bar. I think that would be a huge step forward, because then you could possibly use the keyboard with multiple languages – applications that don’t need the number bar could take that, turning into their own little set of buttons – you could hold down the option key instead of having to guess through a whole row of symbols to figure out which symbol you’re trying to find.
Bradley Metrock: [00:32:56] Anything would be better than what it is right now. Yes, that's a great idea - and thank you for telling me that I can get rid of the Siri button on the touch bar. I will be doing that soon!
Brian Roemmele: [00:33:08] Here we are - #VoiceFirst people - and we're talking about getting rid of the Siri button!
Bradley Metrock: [00:33:12] Well, I hit it by accident all the time! And I'm like "OK ... no ... I don't want Siri!"
Brian Roemmele: [00:33:19] It's one of the biggest problems, and I've got to say I'm heartbroken at how many people I know in voice that are disabling it. Like I said, these are things - if you were truly listening, Apple - that shouldn't be happening.
Bradley Metrock: [00:33:35] It's an absolute embarrassment. And we will take that, and move on to STORY #2, which sort of ties in a little bit to this: the fact that Sonos has come out with a new speaker called ONE that is very interesting from the standpoint of - it integrates Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri all on the same device. Brendan, I'll start with you: what did you think when you looked at this? Is this something that appeals to you? Does it solve any particular problem? Give me your thoughts.
Brendan Hersh: [00:34:03] I think it's a good move to have all the different systems in it, because it's just kind of one base for all of them. You can say "Well, I'm not going to go buy that speaker because I hate Siri" ... or "I don't like the Google Assistant [which, I love the Google Assistant!] but I'm not going to go buy that one because I don't like the Google Assistant." But with this, you could really say "Well, I like this speaker for the sounds of this, that - and then I'm going to go put my own assistant in it, whichever one I want."
Brian Roemmele: [00:34:29] Listen, what they're doing is great. And I think ultimately we're going to have a lot more devices that are ambidextrous, that are going to talk to each other. And we already saw that Amazon and Cortana partnership - that is brilliant. We're going to start seeing more of that. And that's a different technology, different technique, but it's still running the same ideas. Sonos has a tougher time. In fact, it was sad that they announced yesterday in the midst of the Google Max announcement, because it makes it hard to get through the noise - financially they're going to be impacted by this. And psychologically, probably impacted more - because people, although they love Sonos - there's a point in time where they might shift and say "Well, I'm more dedicated to this other platform as pricing starts coming down." And the almost-$300 price structure for the high-end speakers - that's not going to stand, that's going to go down to $100 at some point. And the larger companies have the ability to do that because you're subsidizing through voice commerce. Ultimately what's going to subsidize this thing as a new advertising modality is commerce. The Web was built on advertising pay-per-click. If you didn't have pay-per-click, none of us would be talking about the Web. It would not be able to be supported because commerce alone did not support the Web for a lot of reasons. But pretty much, commerce alone is going to support the #VoiceFirst revolution. That being said - Sonos, I'm giving a little hint here - Sonos needs to polarize very quickly to realize that they're no longer selling hardware. They're selling a service, and that's a hard thing to do for a hardware company.
Brendan Hersh: [00:36:18] It'll be interesting to see how voice ads are going to evolve. I saw a video of how the Google Home started putting ads for the new Beauty and the Beast movie in there, and it was really awkward. It just seemed unusual, how you ask "What's going to be in my day?" and at the end "You know, also - the new Beauty and the Beast movie is coming out - you should go see it!"
Brian Roemmele: [00:36:40] Major film, right?
Brendan Hersh: [00:36:42] I have a better way to do that.
Brian Roemmele: [00:36:43] Yeah. And my thesis is: "There is no pay-per-click advertising in the #VoiceFirst world" is the best way I could say it. What that means is - if I were in this dialogue and all of a sudden interjected "my favorite hamburger" or "my favorite coke or beverage" or "hey, are your tires getting a little worn?" I mean, we do not tolerate those types of interceding behaviors in a vocal stream. There's no way we're going to accept that. The believers of this say that radio does it all the time, and that is absolutely an incorrect analogy. We do not see and we will never see the #VoiceFirst systems as a radio type of interaction.
Brendan Hersh: [00:37:25] We don't talk to our radios.
Brian Roemmele: [00:37:25] Yes, that's exactly it! And you get it instinctively, but there's people that want to believe - because they're really upset with their paradigm being changed - they want to believe that somehow we're going to accept advertising. And the fact of the matter is we never will. And how we will vote is with our voice: we will simply stop using the system. We will stop asking for it, because we don't want to hear their junk.
Bradley Metrock: [00:37:49] We will move on to STORY #3: Amazon is taking Alexa into two very important new markets - I felt this was important to include, even though this is a primarily Google episode - India and Japan. I've said several times, and tweeted several times, that the number two market by a large margin for VoiceFirst.FM shows, number one being the United States - number two is India. We get a ton of listenership from India, and that's across the entire portfolio of our various shows. And that signals, I think, two different things. Amazon's been building some groundwork for this for some time. I think that's an obvious one, but the second one is there's just simple interest: people want to know this information and learn more about the technology. I think it's a fascinating step that Amazon has moved into both Japan and India, and Brendan, I'm going to start with you: What do you think when you look at this? Do you like seeing that Amazon's moving into different countries like this? Or do you think they need to be focusing more domestically? What are your thoughts?
Brendan Hersh: [00:38:56] Yes, I think it's great they're moving. I was obviously very surprised they didn't do this in the first place. I thought they would be putting them everywhere to start with. But I think getting them all over the globe is a great move for them.
Bradley Metrock: [00:39:10] Cool. Brian, you agree?
Brian Roemmele: [00:39:11] Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think the idea that you just focus on one market is very, very flawed, and I think we're going to see there is a tremendous amount of interest. In fact, a lot of people that are leading in India believe that people are going to sidestep the keyboard entirely and just speak into their phone. And there is evidence of that already coming up - I think with Fortune Magazine, or it could have been Forbes - anyway, there was a magazine that recently said that most of India that are on smartphones are not using the keyboard ...
Brendan Hersh: [00:39:55] Wow!
Brian Roemmele: [00:39:55] ... they're using voice prompts, and that has a lot to do with the complexities of the language, has a lot to do with literacy, has a lot to do with other elements. But speaking into the phone is becoming a very powerful thing. And that's what I'm noticing with the younger cohort, too. I'm noticing ... around the United States I was on Warped Tour: it's kind of a punk tour, mostly teens ... a lot of people talking into their phone, texting to other people. That's going on around the world. In China it's really big - and other people I talk to all around the world are saying that this is becoming a big thing. So India was an important market. And again, not to make too much Applesauce here - Apple had so much of this translation capability, and the ability to move into these markets. But the hardware cost limits them from adequately entering into India. In fact, we can't really say that Siri is available in any useful way on the entry level Apple devices in India. So this is sort of a way that they get themselves blocked out. And if Google can get the Pixel 2 in an entry-level model with these Buds - it's going to fundamentally change that area, because there's even language barriers within regions of India. It's not like they can't speak - it's just they can't get communication perfectly because of the differences in language. Again, I'm not an Indian Hindi language expert, but ...
Brendan Hersh: [00:41:30] I hundred percent agree. They make a package with the Pixel 2 and those earbuds, and ... it'll be insane.
Brian Roemmele: [00:41:34] I think we can both agree. All three of us agree that that's our future market.
Bradley Metrock: [00:41:43] For sure, and I would have to seriously consider buying it. I have a lot of reservations, I've expressed them pretty loudly, about wireless Bluetooth headphones; however, you're talking about being able to translate in real time all these different languages - now you've got me thinking differently, and that's no joke. Now you've got me thinking differently.
Brian Roemmele: [00:42:04] Thinking differently, there you go.
Bradley Metrock: [00:42:07] Exactly! And it's not Apple that's got me thinking differently, except I'm thinking differently about what I wish it looked like. But Google just deserves a round of applause.
Brian Roemmele: [00:42:16] Absolutely!
Bradley Metrock: [00:42:17] It's just a natural conclusion after having two weeks of the show where it's a big Amazonapalooza, with literally a deluge of new products - followed by a Googlepalooza with another deluge of new products. And you sit there and it's like ... and I used this analogy on a previous show: Apple reminds me a lot of Wile E. Coyote holding up a tiny umbrella while this huge anvil descends on his head. How can you not talk about Apple in this context? So you're right, Brian - Apple's got another announcement, they've got another event they're going to do. We can hold out hope, but the reality is there's cultural reasons, there's institutional reasons, that they're not able to compete as effectively and move as nimbly.
Brian Roemmele: [00:43:12] Bradley, I've got to ask: do you think some of the pundits are complacent and compliant into making this environment? Do you think that some of the pundits just will absolutely deny that Apple can ... I mean, I'm an Apple fan ... but do you think that that's really driving some of this?
Bradley Metrock: [00:43:28] It's definitely a part of it. Apple's got a pretty aggressive public relations component, where they're actively policing things - they're very interested - they seem to be very interested in security, even though they can't stop a leak at all. They've got all these people out in the world, sort of their own police force. Then you've got the media that I call the Apple Blogosphere. I'm not going to name names, it's not hard to find this - look for people talking about Apple on Twitter. It used to be 100 percent, now we're down to about 80 or 90 percent - of these people who are just singing the praises of Apple, and they do so for two reasons. Number one: the history of the company, and Steve Jobs being the revered figure that he is. Number two: they want access to Apple. This closed culture that Apple has - they want access to it. So it creates this environment where all the upside that any of these people can ever attain by doing what they do is only by being positive and singing the praises of Apple Inc. And it taints the water. It confuses the message. To some extent, I don't blame the Apple executives completely for not knowing which way the wind is blowing, and up is down, down is up, and continually managing to make these errors. So it's a combination of things.
Bradley Metrock: [00:45:15] It's a lot of forces combining to steer the Apple ship in the wrong direction. But maybe after seeing Amazon, and how serious Amazon is about voice last week - and then seeing how serious Google is this week - Apple will start to realize "Hey, wait a minute - maybe we need to be a little more serious about this, maybe change some things." But I'm a big Apple fan, too. You just can't talk about Google and Amazon doing these big things and not talk about what Apple's not doing.
Brian Roemmele: [00:45:48] I've got to ask, since we have Brandon and he's just an incredible guest. You're seeing the world through really different eyes here. What's your gut instinct? You're seeing a lot of this stuff sort of new. Some of us have been sort of been jaded by it. Do you feel these different divisions? Do you feel you need be pro Apple, or pro Google, or pro Amazon? Or do you just kind of see it as whatever works?
Brendan Hersh: [00:46:16] I've always used Apple's stuff, and I think that all the Google stuff is really interesting and I'll definitely give it a good try. But I definitely think that there are divisions, and I think that eventually they'll start going away - the more these companies start introducing these new products that work with each other, like that Sonos speaker that has all three systems built in.
Brian Roemmele: [00:46:46] What drove you to Apple? Was that just something that you naturally came to? What was the ambition that said "Hey, I've got to get a MacBook Pro" and not, say, a Windows laptop or something?
Brendan Hersh: [00:46:58] Well, years and years ago we used to have one Dell laptop running Windows ...
Brian Roemmele: [00:47:05] I'm sorry to hear that.
Brendan Hersh: [00:47:08] ... and then I think for Christmas one year, we all got this big 27 inch iMac, and that was a big step forward. And I realized how I liked that so much better than the whole Windows experience.
Brian Roemmele: [00:47:24] Did that inspire you? Did it make you want to get involved in coding and programming?
Brendan Hersh: [00:47:29] I think it definitely did. And I just liked the stuff ever since - Apple stuff seems to make more sense. And it just seems to be more user-friendly than Windows.
Bradley Metrock: [00:47:45] That's a fascinating example, and I think it's a very bittersweet example, too. Because how can you not listen to that very succinct explanation, that perfect anecdote - and not think about how Apple has neglected their hardware?
Brian Roemmele: [00:48:04] I'm going to put a cherry on top of this. If there were tools that were open to you, and Apple had a $39.95 Siri device, and there were tools open to you as a developer - would you have built some of the first voice apps on a Siri system, say that happened five years ago or three years ago?
Brendan Hersh: [00:48:32] I think back then, I probably would have tried to make it in the Siri system. Just not knowing about the different features back then - not knowing how Siri differs from all the different voice assistants back then. But I think that Apple's going to need to make some big changes for Siri if they're going to put out that HomePod and expect it to sell.
Brian Roemmele: [00:48:58] As a developer, are you thinking in terms of ... I don't think we've talked enough about how much great work you're doing in voice app development. Are you thinking in terms of that as a developer? I mean, what's your instinct? What's in your gut? It's like - you're on the Google platform, you're looking at other things - how do you see it? Are you really motivated, like "I've got to build something on that HomePod!"?
Brendan Hersh: [00:49:22] I don't think I'm super-motivated to build things on HomePod, because knowing how it's probably going to turn out - in November/December, whenever it's going to come out - unless I see a completely new re-worked Siri, that answers you as fast as the Assistant, and all of that - I really don't think I would make Siri stuff.
Brian Roemmele: [00:49:43] See, Bradley, this is a conversation I have all the time. And it's heartbreaking, with so many developers. And Brendan is sounding like a true developer; they're looking at it through the right lenses. They're saying "Apple, what are you giving me as a developer tool? How are you reaching out to me? What is it that you're motivating me to go out and develop?" And Brendan is IN the Apple world. He was inspired by Apple Computer. He's on a MacBook Pro, creating. Yet Apple has not been able to reach out to him and say "Build on Siri." That's not Brendan's fault. That's Apple's fault.
Bradley Metrock: [00:50:21] Well, of course it's Apple's fault. And that's great questions that you asked - because for a youngster who is so technologically savvy, who has plenty of resources at his disposal - you ask the question "If you had had access to Siri three or four years ago, would you have developed for it?" Shoot, how could you not? I think that's great. I think that's very insightful, and like I said the word that comes to mind is bittersweet because it's a perfect look into what could have been, as far as Apple is concerned - and the opportunities they continue to miss on a daily basis.
Bradley Metrock: [00:51:04] Brendan and Brian, thank you very much for joining us. This is a great episode. Brian, did you want to throw something else in there at the very end?
Brian Roemmele: [00:51:12] I would just say that this is such an incredible show. Brendan SO inspires me. I hope others are hearing just what this represents, because I think this is what we're looking at in the future.
Brendan Hersh: [00:51:25] Thank you!
Brian Roemmele: [00:51:25] So, so honored to be here. It was a great show today, guys.
Bradley Metrock: [00:51:28] We talked about all the Apple stuff, and I think one of the things that will go down in history is Phil Schiller using the word "courageous" in an Apple event like he did. But Brendan, for a 16-year-old to come on this show with us - that actually IS courageous. Thank you very much for setting the time aside.
Brendan Hersh: [00:51:49] Thank you very much for having me on here. It was great.
Bradley Metrock: [00:51:52] Brian, appreciate you as well, of course. For This Week In Voice - thank you for listening. And until next time.