Tech’s Future Is Likely To Be In Goods

By Paresh Dave
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Technology executives say software companies like Google Facebook and Amazon could soon be producing physical products.

Los Angeles Times

It’s easy to imagine a future in which products as mundane as toasters and window blinds will be connected to the internet and controlled by software.

It’s harder to guess who’s going to make them.

Leading producers of consumer software such as Google, Facebook, and Snapchat are branching into designing physical goods at accelerating rates.

Driven by intensifying competition for consumer attention and enabled by declining manufacturing costs, software companies are entering battle with firms as far-removed from Silicon Valley as Timex and Ray-Ban.

The years to come could see Amazon making bookshelves that know what’s on them, grocery delivery app Instacart peddling refrigerators that restock on their own and music-streaming service Spotify designing headphones with a cellular chip and flip-down video display.

It’s all conjecture for now, but they are real considerations for software behemoths that want to solidify monopolies as well as startups seeking to upend traditional consumer brands, technology executives and advisors say.

“Everything that’s a physical object is eventually going to be a combination of hardware and services,” said Amar Hanspal, senior vice president for products at design software giant Autodesk. “The more industrial and complex ones are going to come from a traditional hardware company. But the more consumer-oriented and less complex, software companies will enter those product categories a lot more.”

The latest signs of that future emerged Tuesday, when Google launched Home, a $130 tabletop device comparable to an alarm clock, except it responds aloud to spoken commands and search queries. It also revealed a Wi-Fi router and the first fully Google-branded smartphones. The unveiling caps a turnabout for a company that originally limited its mobile ambitions to supplying free software to handset makers.

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