Top U.S. senator fears Big Tech at home as Alexa, Nest dominate

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) – US lawmakers from both parties hit Alphabet Inc (GoogL.O) Google and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) on Tuesday about their smart speaker markets, amid concerns over the dominance of tech giants in the space.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that Amazon has more than 50% of the smart speaker market while Google has 30% and stressed the importance of interoperability.

“In a few years, people could easily have 20 or more connected devices in their home – from a vacuum cleaner and refrigerator to speakers and lights. We want these devices to work together seamlessly, ”she said. “You shouldn’t have to choose the right devices for your home based on whether they play well with the digital assistants from Google or Amazon.”

Smart home technology includes intelligent speakers such as Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Nest, security systems or televisions.

Wilson White, Google’s senior public policy director, said interoperability was a goal and that “robust discussions” were being held about how to achieve it.

Ryan McCrate, Amazon’s Associate General Counsel, said Amazon wanted users to be able to access multiple assistants from a single device if the user so desires.

Neither Google nor Amazon seemed to strive for real interoperability, said Eddie Lazarus, chief legal officer of the smart speaker manufacturer Sonos.

Google contractually prohibits Sonos from using technologies that allow users to switch between Amazon’s Alexa and the Google voice assistant, Lazarus said. He said Amazon’s efforts to work with smaller companies are “just a step into the Amazon ecosystem because you can’t mix and match between the big companies.”

The hearing took place at a time of extraordinary interest tougher antitrust enforcement, much of it was concentrated in the largest US tech companies. One result was a series of investigations and several federal and state lawsuits against Google and Facebook, as well as a long list of antitrust laws.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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