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“Voice assistants, a ruthless universe”

Chronic. For those interested in competition in technology, voice assistants are a remarkable case. Of course, the use of these voice-controlled software is still limited. But Amazon, Google and Apple hope to install them in your home via connected speakers, in your pocket via your smartphone, in your car, in your connected television …

Above all, the use of oral order changes the situation. If you ask a Google Home connected speaker, “What's the latest news?” “, she will make you listen to a France Info flash. Public radio is the default choice because it partnered with Google early on. If you ask him to play the song Bella Ciao, you will probably hear the recent version with, in particular, Maître Gims, popular on the music service Spotify. Tomorrow, if you cough in the presence of your voice assistant, he could offer to have the syrup delivered to you, if this brand has a commercial agreement with Amazon. A fictitious case but envisaged in one of the patents filed by the company, in 2017.

A barbecue playlist

Of course, if you know what you want, you can “start RMC”. But the oral favors open questions. Users request “barbecue music” or “Music for sports”, which triggers playlists of preselected songs.

The voice assistants concentrate the choices. Kind of like search engines that give only one answer. Those are “Result drivers”, summarized the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA) in a report published, in May 2019, with the High Authority for the diffusion of works and the protection of the rights on Internet (Hadopi), the Authority of competition, the regulator Telecom Arcep and the National Commission for Data Protection (CNIL).

“If you ask the Amazon Alexa assistant for a song, it will go to Amazon Music to find it, unless you have configured it to use Spotify or Apple Music …”

In the voice universe, “The most famous brands and the biggest players” will be favored, warns the document. There is a “Risk of confinement” of the consumer. And Google, Apple and Amazon have stronger intermediary power. However, Amazon and Google control 90% of the market for connected speakers in the United States and 60% worldwide. The risk of a distortion of competition is also reinforced by the fact that the three digital giants publish their own services: if you ask a song to the assistant of Amazon Alexa, he will go and get it on Amazon Music, unless you set it up to use Spotify or Apple Music…

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