Google’s Sundar Pichai says it’s ‘very early days’ in the battle against Amazon Echo

Between the Pixel and Google Home, 2016 was a big year for Google voice search, but the company’s plays in the space still seemed to pale in comparison to Amazon’s infiltration, courtesy of its wildly successful Echo devices.

In today’s Q4 Alphabet earnings call, Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai addressed what looks to be a late start from the company, calling the voice search space, “very early days,” adding, “We expect voice to work from many different contexts. We are thinking about it across phones, homes, TVs, cars and trying to drive the ecosystem that way, and we want it to be there for users when they need it.”

Without giving specific numbers, the exec cited Home’s brisk sales, calling Q4 “very strong” for the product. Pichai added that the company plans to invest “a lot” in the category, coupled with a long-term commitment to voice that predates the connected home device by some time.

“When I look at what it would take to do voice search well, our years of research into natural language voice processing comes into play,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of work ahead to make this work well for users. This is a core area we’ve invested in for the long term, so this is an area I feel comfortable about how it will play out in the future.”

Pichai’s not wrong, of course. The real war for the connected home has really only started playing out, but it’s hard to ignore Amazon’s healthy head start, both in terms of home infiltration and third-party partners. Google has certainly been aggressive on both fronts, with a number of announcements around Home and Assistant in recent months.

That, coupled with widespread Android device deployment and years of search and voice investment, could ultimately end up paying off for the company in the long run.