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The Internet of Intelligent Things: Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and the new battlefront

Roughly every ten years there's a shift to a new computing paradigm. The computer hardware and process optimization of the 80's gave way to the Microsoft-dominated software and productivity of the 90s. Google-dominated web-based information retrieval of the 00s yielded to the Apple-Android mobile duopoly and the warehouse of apps paradigm of the 10's.

The maturity of the web, intelligent cloud computing, advances in AI and the mobility of our digital experiences are setting the stage for the next shift to more ambient computing via the Internet of Things. By 2020 the number of connected devices is expected to triple to 34 billion (with a global human population of 7.5 billion).

34 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.

Companies are investing millions in the next phase of computing, which will be a complex interwoven web of things powered by artificial intelligence. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expounded, "we want to bring intelligence to everything, to everywhere, and for everyone." Other tech companies share this vision.

If Microsoft, Google and Samsung have their way, the Internet of Things will be infused with intelligence that gets to know users and responds to them in very personalized ways. Investments in AI and IoT are leading to a future of decentralized or ambient computing, that departs from our smartphone-centric present.

Google has eyes on AI

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai recently stated he is on a journey from mobile to AI. This realigning of the search giant around AI is a testimony that Mountain View recognizes the paradigm shift taking place. Google's cloud investments, strength in search, and mobile dominance with Android provide them with a position of power on the AI front. As the leader in search, Google has a vast repository of categorized data that gives the company an advantage as the provider of information to users.

Furthermore, Google has the mindshare as the "go to" source when a user has a question. "Googling" something has become part of our common vernacular. Moreover, 20% of the searches in the Google app in the US are by voice.

Google wants to make Google Assistant available to IoT devices.

It is upon this foundation that Google has launched "Google Assistant" as every user's personal Google. Pichai boasted that the Assistant would get to know users over time and deliver a more personal experience. As a part of Google Home, Pixel (and other) smartphones, Allo Messenger and the IoT Google hopes that its Assistant will be a pervasive part of our lives. Google's developer advocate for IoT Wayne Piekarski wrote:

We are also updating the Weave platform to make it easier for all types of devices to connect to the cloud and interact with services like the Google Assistant.

Finally, Google's purchase of API.ai provides developers (over 60,000 so far) a platform for creating bots for this new battleground.

Samsung's living with Viv and harnessing Harman

As the leading Android phone manufacturer, Samsung's Galaxy line dominates the market (despite recent troubles). Still, slim profit margins are even more problematic in a saturated smartphone market. Samsung's purchase of Viv (opens in new tab) and Harman reveal their vision beyond the smartphone.

Viv was a startup co-founded by the creators of Siri, with the mission to "breathe life into inanimate objects and devices in our lives through conversation." Viv creator Dag Kittlaus described how Viv, as an unbounded AI for the entire industry, would know users across devices:

He gave an example of a consumer buying a product, logging in, and having access to Viv and all of their personal information on the new device. He also explained Viv's unique capability of dynamic program generation or self-programming where the program understands and adapts dynamically to a user's intent. When asked if he'd sell the company to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg before Samsung acquisition Kittlaus asserted:

Our goal for this is ubiquity. And we're going to follow the path to ubiquity. We've had acquisition offers in the past that we have not gone with…We're going to stay true to what we think is the right way to get to get to ubiquity. We're not going to predetermine what path that is, but we're determined to finish the job, for sure.

After the acquisition was announced, Samsung SVP Jacopo Lenzi said Viv will continue to operate independently, but in support of, Samsung's vision.

Kittlaus is excited about the 500 million devices Samsung ships yearly and is committed to keeping Viv an open platform to enable growth at the global scale he envisions. Though, many consumers are excited about the Viv-powered assistant destined for the Galaxy S8, the bigger picture is Samsung's broad vision for an AI-infused IoT.

Furthermore, Samsung's purchase of Harman gives Samsung's AI an immediate platform in cars.

Final Thoughts

I've written in detail about Microsoft's AI and bot vision and a democratized Cortana. Redmond's hopes to be the platform for an AI-infused world exist within a very competitive space. Low-cost ARM PCs as part of Microsoft's Home Hub vision, a cohesive family of Windows 10 devices and the release of the Cortana SDK may positively affect Redmond's IoT fortunes.

Finally unlike Cortana, Google Assistant, and Samsung's coming assistant, Apple's Siri SDK will not (yet) be infused as broadly within third-party devices as a democratized AI. How will interaction with rival AI that facilitates a user's digital experience in a world where computing is more ambient affect users committed to Apple's ecosystem?

There is a leader during each computing paradigm. Microsoft led the PC revolution, Google the web, and Apple in mobile. Who will lead on the Internet of Intelligent Things?

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

41 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks!!! As we know nothing happens in a vacuum. Microsoft's AI and IoT efforts are in a battle with the likes of Google, Samsung Baidu in China and others. Both Google and Samsung are formidable rivals. Googles Search backbone, progress in machine learning and Natural Language Processing and Android dominance position the company well. Samsung vast array of well branded products and appliances makes it phone-plus vision possible. The company has easy access to consumers across a range of consumer devices the neither Microsoft nor Google possess. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. 🙂
  • Amazon and Samsung have probably already won with Alexa and SmartThings, respectively. Apple will no doubt produce something half-assed that will be gobbled up by consumers because of the Apple logo and clever marketing. Microsoft will try, and possibly make a superior product, but will fail to take a leading role because of their lacking in mobile... because 99% of people will be interacting with IoT with their phone. That's why Samsung and Apple will dominate (also Samsung's home devices that are already connected like refrigerator, washing machine, etc.), with Amazon's Alexa coming in behind them.
  • And all the MS apps don't already run brilliantly on iis and android
    connected devices need a software connection with normal hardware.
  • Consumer IoT is a relatively small sliver of the market when compared to the industrial IoT. In the industrial market, Microsoft has a commanding lead over their one and only rival, AWS. Microsoft has long standing partnerships with industrial automation firms that they have leveraged for Azure IoT. This includes Siemens, Esri, Schneider and many others. In and of itself, the SCADA market is huge. The SCADA market will not trust that to just any cloud services provider. Right now, most are off the grid completely but that will change in time. They also have an excellent connected car service in Azure that is used by Tesla, Ford and many others. QNX may own the dashboard but Microsoft owns the backend. That is kind-of a big deal. AWS released their IoT solution earlier this year but they are way behind Microsoft and they do not have an end to end solution. They do have Alexa but that isn't really an IoT play. It just happens to support third party skills if you want to bark commands to tell it to turn on the lights. Sadly, Alexa doesn't support AllJoyn so that is a strike against them in my opinion. Google has some mindshare in the smart cities market but they are still behind Microsoft at this point. They have no significant partnerships and they have no PaaS IoT offering in GCE. They may have a device platform play but it is still vaporware at this point. Their consumer efforts have been disjointed at best and they also don't support AllJoyn. Samsung is trying to become a platform company but that is alot more difficult than it sounds. Trust is the key with platforms and they don't have that. I take anything from Samsung with a grain of salt. Their acquisition for SmartThings was a good play but it lacks support for AllJoyn so interoperability will be an issue at some point. It is a proprietary hub that has no capability to scale to the industrial market. Samsung as a platform company is a big stretch. I realize that this is a consumer centric site but discussing IoT without factoring in the industrial market is a disservice to the massive potential for IoT. Of the billions of connected devices, industry will account for the vast majority of them. At this point, Microsoft is the clear leader in the industrial IoT market. They have everything covered from the cloud to the endpoint. They also have industry partnerships across every vertical. Their consumer product focus prioritizes interoperability with AllJoyn support and scale. The recurring revenue is in the industrial IoT market. SCADA is slowly migrating to the cloud. It is a scary proposition because it could be managing PLC's that provide automation for anything from a nuclear power plant (remember STUXNET?) to a natural gas processing plant. However, the industry also knows that the benefits are massive. All that data and automation being driven through the cloud will completely transform industries across every infrastructure vertical. It will literally touch every one of our lives. I just think it is worth mentioning that Microsoft and IoT is much more than the consumer market. Their lead in the industrial IoT market is a REALLY significant advantage that none of their competitors have going for them. I would like to see a follow up to this article that provides a more holistic perspective on the IoT market. It would provide more context for what Microsoft is doing in this space outside of the consumer-centric focus that is common for most media outlets. This would also provide more insight into Microsoft's strategy throughout their portfolio. Nadella has indicated that ambient intelligence and data are at the heart of their future. Those are also critical for success with IoT. That is no coincidence.
  • @inlineV Thanks for the great additions to the discussion! Great points. I wrote a piece back in February 2016 that hits on Microsoft's cloud efforts and providing a platform for the auto industry and more. You might like that piece: http://m.windowscentral.com/microsofts-agressive-push-rule-personal-comp... Also since you mentioned Nadella's statement about ambient intelligence and data if you misses my piece just before this one on Microsoft's AI efforts you might like that too! 😉www.windowscentral.com/author/jason-ward Thanks again for the great input!👍🏿
  • @Jason, I remember those pieces. If I may, at times your editorials are futuristic. Please consider rewriting them as they then(today) make perfect and relevant sense, or consider doing updated series of past editorials. Great work
  • Very detailed and knowledgeable response, thank you for the insight
  • Thanks for your description and detail knowledge. I know Microsoft does not saying that they are dare to go to the IoT without something already in their hands. They already have it long time ago, just need to switch the focus. But I hope that Microsoft will not be late again just like the Windows Phone thing. I think another think Microsoft need to focus is to make the mobile phone as a power generator for all the user needs, not just a Smartphone. Imagine the Surface Phone in your pocket that handles everything like querying, playing music or games, etc, with the likes of Hollow Lens, Google glass, VR gear or even as simple spectacle or sunglasses as the output. That would be more than having a Continuum, and it will a different type of gadget it self...
  • Great comment, thanks!  
  • This, this, this. There is no way at the moment that Android is going to get any where near our SCADA devices. Nope, nope, nope.
  • At home in Holland, i am using the Homewizard, a device between my iot and my windows 10 mobile, the 950XL. Its all browser controlled. Since windows does not have an app like android and ios for the homewizard. Microsoft has lost this battle before it begins. As long I can manage my iot this way I will use w10m. But its getting harder by the year.
  • https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/homewizard/9nblggh0flkt  The homewizard in the Microsoft Store?
  • That app is not the original from the vendoir, the web app is oke and identical to IOS or Android. This app is not working in w10m, according to the comments in the store its dead since 2015.
  • App exists. Maybe not in your market.
  • samsung smart home a smart home with smart products that never get updated thanks but no thanks
  • Agreed.
    I don't understand the Samsung love, I've had a number of their products over the years and they've all been garbage.
    Phones and washing machines catching fire and burning homes down, no thank you.
  • I hope Microsoft will do a great job but I won't underestimate Google
  • Where does the Google Home and Amazan Echo fit into this?  Microsoft had the Kinect and seemed liked they could have expanded on that to do more things.  But the Kinect is now out of fashion for Microsoft.  Sure Microsoft may eventually catch up with Google on this front but it seems Microsoft is just living in the current times of most... their attention span is short.  They create or come up with an innovative idea only to get bored and try to move on to something else. 
  • Good point about kinect, once hailed by Microsoft now spoken of in the dame terms as a contagious disease. Odds are they'll move on if they don't succeed at their first try.
  • Nice informative article, as we move into 2017, is nice to know what the future holds for technology, just hope Microsoft is apart of it!!!
  • It's a fight they all have to fight together
  • I know Ms is mad about internet of things
  • Why do you think that?
  • This is a very nice article, not totally windows-centric.  We need Ms to keep an oar in, since everybody seems to be making major mistakes.  As you have implied, there may be another company for the next era, but the existing companies seem to by buying everything up.  My vote would be for Google, if they had the tiniest bit of social talent.  :)
  • For me its the security aspect also the fact Ms is the only player allowing the a.i on all platforms which hopefully will prove pivotal.
  • Maybe yes, maybe not.
    Who knows?
  • You know nothing....
  • Microsoft will do alright in this world - they are innovative.  they play in the hardware and software world  - I think moreso than the other. Google is more in the softworld realm.  Samsung, hardware. Not sure if MS will lead, but they will be in there!
  • It's because MS also have a big vision on internet of things with there azure and many others
  • Very interesting article. I love competition, it drives innovation. Microsoft is pushed into a corner and they have no choice but to work twice as hard. I think part of the reason why Microsoft isn't first in almost all its service offerings except for Windows and Office is because they are competing with every other big company that specializes. Sales Force specializes in crm and they are leading, Amazon with AWS and they are leading, Google with search, they are leading, Sony PlayStation, they are leading, Mobile its Google and Apple. I will say this though, that they are gain traction fast in all these fields. Xbox is doing crazy things to win gamers over, the new dynamics 365 with Linkedin acquisition will likely lead in CRM solutions. Azure is slowly chipping from AWS and mobile is interesting because with windows on ARM, it will most likely pust IoT and cloud which ultimately if there is one operating system then development for a single OS will be fast. We can only wait and see
  • That's no moon...
  • If this amount of personal data is not effectively secured against cyber attacks and targeted advertisements, we are looking at the worst versions of Watchdogs....
  • We already are. Take a look at Shodan.
  • Purchased the Echo when it launched and now had the Google Home for four weeks.   Basically the Echo you use commands where you talk to the Google Home naturally. The Echo will handle some fuzziness but fundamentally they are variations to commands instead of fundamentally understanding what you are saying.   So with the Echo you might do a quick Google search with a lyric to get a song name and then ask the Echo to play. With the Google Home you skip the Google search step.   I am starting to learn a shorter english as the inference is so incredible with the Google Home. So say "hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv". Google figures out that I want to watch a video of Gwen Stefani and Sting singing message in a bottle on my TV. It then turns the TV on, sets the proper input, and the video starts playing.   Our brains inference capabilities allow us to communicate with one another in a compressed manner. Information can be inferred versus being said. This is what Google is doing and for some (many?) things they can do better than a human. Maybe it is because I have an engineering background but the Google Home from a technology standpoint and what Google is doing just blows me away.   The demo that most blows people away is the Google Photos with the Google Home. A bunch of people over for the holiday and someone asks how was your trip? You just say would you like to see a few pics? You just say "hey google show my photos of kenny in Maui". The TV turns itself on, input set, and photos of my son Kenny playing on the beach in Maui displays". Someone asks did you guys snorkel?   I simply ask Google to show photos of Molokini and then photos of us snorkeling at Molokini and unfortunately pics of where I forced the kids to Kayak to Molokini from the hotel. Wind changed, almost died, fantastic Coast Guard picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we were yelled at because suppose to check in once an hour. Just what happens when wife does not join me and the kids on vacation.   Then my oldest said I remember snorkeling there. Then you just say show Tommy snorkeling at Molokini. My wife had scanned and loaded 1000s of photos into Google Photos and to the shock of my oldest son photos both above and underwater display of him at Molokini.   This is simply off the charts incredible from a technology standpoint. Might be a bias for me but simply wow! Basically one shutter click and nothing else and three months later you are in your family room without touching a single thing showing the photos. There is no more friction that can be removed.  
  • Sorry to say MS have already lost the IoT battle. Alexa and Google Home have been out a while now. My family just bought three Echo Dots. My uncle and cousin have also done the same. My brother and his family just got Google Home for xmas. MS too late to the game as usual... RIP Cortana
  • Wow just because a number of families have bought into such tech, it's game over for Microsoft
  • Sorry to say, but Amazon's offerings are less than stellar. MS will win this one with ease.
  • So overtime MS will win the war of cloud for businesses which I get, hope they don't neglect consumer
  • I'm a Microsoftie but concerningly, we've seen this movie before. Those of us who used the Windows Mobile devices from Palm to the HTC to the Lumia 928 and 950 all would say that MS's solutions blew the competition away...but something with the general public didn't click, and the majority of consumers went with the "simplistic" iPhone. In the same way, people seem to be happy with a $50 Dot device they can get the weather from and reorder their weekly supply of paper towels. They won't care that Cortana and Home Hub will (eventually) be able to connect tons of devices and do loads of crazy stuff. IMHO it's the lack of advertising and partnering with enough companies to push the platform. As Dan keeps saying, they need to "create a category" and be the first, best in class in it. Damn, I still love my Band 2 but I just heard that a 6-year old in town got an Apple Watch. Something's wrong here (not just the obvious.) It's a long slog but MS has also got to work on their reputation so they're not considered the IBM of the 21st century.
  • We will soon get to try it out with the HK Cortana speaker. Can't wait.
  • Thanks Jason, great read. Enjoy the holidays.