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Bits: Daily Report: Google’s Slow Response to Amazon’s Echo is a Warning

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Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management, showed off the new Google Home in May. Credit Glenn Chapman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Google, for all its financial success and world-beating technology, has a problem: It often lags or is never even a player in markets it could have dominated.

As Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nick Wingfield write, that’s been the case with artificially intelligent home appliances. Two years ago, Amazon introduced its Echo device. The Echo is essentially a personal assistant. You can tell it to do things around the house, like play music or control internet-connected lights.

The Echo became a surprise hit. And on Tuesday Google will finally release its competitor, called Google Home. That Google is two years behind Amazon with a competing home appliance is puzzling to some people in tech. It has some of the most advanced A.I. technology in the world and an unmatched database of terms thanks to its search engine.

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So what happened? As some people inside Google tell it, an A.I. home device fell through the cracks, in part because the company was so focused on building this sort of technology into mobile devices that use Google’s Android operating system.

There is plenty of time for Google to reel in Amazon. But the early miss on home A.I. tech shows that the company is vulnerable to new ideas — or different ways of thinking about older ideas. It can’t afford to allow that to happen too many times.

Silicon Valley veterans sometimes say the tech industry is built on the bones of older companies. Google executives must know this well, since part of the company’s headquarters used to be the home of Silicon Graphics, a computer company that peaked two decades ago.

The trick is to never become one of the dinosaurs.

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