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Amazon will stop selling Nest smart home devices (businessinsider.com)
275 points by doener 15 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 254 comments

The problem here isn't so much that Amazon is going to hurt Google. Google will survive. But we only hear about this story because Google is who Amazon is attacking (today).

The bigger problem is that Amazon has set themselves up as the global arbiter of commerce, acting as a relatively neutral marketplace matching buyers to sellers worldwide, replacing many or most of the smaller commerce hubs and marketplaces that used to exist.

But once in that position, they exercise control over which products can be sold with the explicit intention of destroying competitors, replacing what would otherwise be a consumer favorite with their own inferior (according to market preference) alternate.

Everyone talks about monopolists and moral hazard and market manipulation, but Amazon seems to be the only modern company with the unique combination of dominance, confidence, and poor executive judgment to actually make it a consistent and overt company policy.

If you saw the article yesterday about counterfit Nests still for sale and Amazon taking no action, I think it's actually worse than that.

Banning competition you don't like is monoploistic for sure, but intentionally leaving counterfitters versions up and promoting them to searchers for those products so it damages your competitors brand is just straight up evil.

Sorry, I got this mixed up with the counterfeit chromecast devices that Amazon is ignoring. Its hard to keep track of all the anti-competitive stuff Amazon is doing lately. ;-)

Is it intentional though? Like the old proverb goes--never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

This is so true! And now as they have bought Whole Foods, they can do the same thing with grocery products by having options such as WF branded ones over the competitors (stocking 365 branded Sugar and dropping Safway Signature branded Sugar) through their Amazon Fresh or Prime NOW service.

People like variety in food. You don’t usually see network effects (ie, recipe only works if you use ingredients from same supplier)

Home automation though is a great network effects play which is why amazon is doing this.

If home automation is their goal, then why doesn't Amazon open an API for making automated purchases? They can sell more through their marketplace this way.

Because automating homes is not their goal; profiting when others automate their homes is their goal. They appear t believe that they will make significantly more profit by selling home automation tools and the things that attach to them than by carrying some other company's home automation tools in their catalog in addition to their own.

Having interviewed with Alexa I can assure you home automation is there #1 goal.

Fraud concerns most likely. They have an api they support for hooking up to Alexa.

Why do you assume they aren't working on it?

Big companies move slowly. I doubt Amazon could roll something like this out without 5+ years of development - possibly longer depending on how many times the department gets reorg'd.

Because they want people to buy Alexa?

Whole Foods was already abusing their position by setting strict quality standards for foods they carried, and reducing the requirements for their own 365 brand.

i've already seen that. Try buying some products that are not 365 (the WF private label.) The march has already started and is accelerating. Consumers beware1

Google is no angel themselves. What they did to Windows Phone is no different than Amazon's behavior. I'd imagine Windows Phone might as well died even if there were Google apps on it. But by actively preventing third-parties from porting their services to WP, Google intentionally tried to kill it. Now they now practically own the global market of smartphones. Not saying any of this is right, but I've less empathy for them.

>But by actively preventing third-parties from porting their services to WP

[citation needed]

The only history i'm aware of with google blocking app development on windows phone is when they sent C&Ds to people developing apps that stripped all the ads off youtube and played background audio. They also consistently take down and block android apps that violate the TOS in this way, and i don't see anybody saying that google is trying to kill android.

Google blocked the web version of Google Maps in Internet Explorer for Windows Phone:


Maps worked fine with exactly the same Trident engine on the desktop. Moreover, if you change the user agent string, maps also worked fine with Windows Phone.

That seems like a pretty simple fix for Microsoft to make on behalf of every Windows Phone user... Google can't compel MS to identify its phones for Google's benefit.

Google would just change the user-agent they were blocking to whatever Microsoft changed it to. It was intentional.

Again, there's no rule that says devices must have unique user-agents. Once you've established that Google wants to block Windows Phone from using maps, you can send the user-agent string of something they don't want to block.




Google pulls this same bs with consoles as well, both PS4 and Xbox One (S/X) have a shitty HTML5 app that just doesn't fit well with rest of the system.

Really? I've used the ps4 YouTube app a bunch to watch videos, and movies purchased from the play store. My phone can cast to it as well. Seems to work as well as the Netflix app. I've had more issues with the ps4 store app honestly.

So does Apple TV now after the most recent update, and it’s absoultely terrible.

Nobody stripped ads offf YouTube videos - Google doesn’t provide an API you can use to display them in the first place and they had no desire to make a native application themselves to remove the necessity.

The background audio stuff, sure - that happened.

If you do a Google search for "Alexa" or "dot echo", the first hits will be Amazon's products.

As long as this is true, Google is acting a lot more objectively than Amazon and its anti-competitive behavior.

Shady anti-portability tactics against Microsoft is just karma.

I'm sure Microsoft could have worked out a deal with Google. For example there were some patents for filesystems that Microsoft was enforcing for a while on Android phones.

Not to mention when Google blocked YouTube from Echo Show devices. This almost seems like retaliation.

The block was because Echo Show devices don't support various features like ads. Also at the time, the YouTube block could be seen as retaliation for Amazon de-listing ChromeCast.

That was the first block. Then Amazon re-implemented it to just be a browser that views youtube.com so ads show just as on the normal website, and Google blocked their user agent.


Ads are a feature which allow the various companies involved to provide content for free to the consumer.

This should not be downvoted. YouTube does not have a viable competitor because serving video is incredibly expensive.

Edit: This is being downvoted as well. Downvoted is for off-topic or inflammatory comments, not for comments you disagree with. If you disagree, leave a comment and explain why!

Is that true? What about Vimeo, Dailymotion, and the countless streaming sites which pop up to serve pirated content?

I don't doubt serving video to an audience as large as YouTube's is very expensive, but then with an audience as large as YouTube's there's a lot of money to be made. Bandwidth cost scales with views.

Surely YouTube's advantage is a network effect. They make it easy and quick to upload videos which then have the potential to be viewed millions or billions of times. Plenty of people use Vimeo, but there's not the same potential for virality.

>Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.


If you want to agree with a downvoted comment, simply say you agree and give some reasons why. Don't mention the downvotes.

Google blocked Echo from viewing Youtube in retaliation for Amazon not listing Chromecast. If Amazon agreed to list Chromecast, all the blocks could be eliminated and the war could end.

Or when Google blocked YouTube from Fire TV devices, after which Amazon stopped selling Chromecasts. Or maybe it was the other way around.

This is - in other words - not the first time Amazon and Google got in a spat like this, and probably ain't the last.

that was the other way around.

and amazon's rationale for not selling chromecasts was because the chromecast didn't support amazon prime video. which was, of course, a decision that amazon had made.

It wasn't Google that didn't support Amazon Prime Video, Amazon didn't add support. It was the same reason the Amazon gave for not selling the Apple TV 3rd and 4th generations. Apple worked with dozens of other providers to add apps to the 3rd gen ATV and a time could write an app for the 4th gen TV.

The proof is that there is now an Amazon Video app for the 3rd and 4th gen ATV. It was a surprise to almost everyone that Amazon/Apple ported Amazon Video to the 3rd Gen ATV after it had been discontinued for over a year.

I don't think it's Amazon decision to not allow Prime video on the google chromecast devices - it's available of consoles, Roku and other 3rd party devices.

Sure it is. Chromecast offers an API everybody can just use, without asking Google for permission.


Chromecast only offers an API if you already have a license to the Google Play Services, which does require Google’s permission.

And this license only allows sending Chromecast streams – it does not allow the FireTV to receive any.

I don't understand. karavelov said that Amazon Prime Video doesn't work with Chromecast. Are you saying that https://developers.google.com/cast/ is insufficient to allow Prime Video to work with Chromecast?

karavelov was not asking about FireTV receiving Chromecast. Does Roku receive Chromecast streams? If so, what's stopping FireTV, if not then it's not really relevant to this "targeted discrimination" discussion.

> Are you saying that https://developers.google.com/cast/ is insufficient to allow Prime Video to work with Chromecast?

Correct. That SDK requires proprietary Google Play Services to be present on a device to allow Chromecast to work.

As the same Prime Video app has to work on Kindle devices, LineageOS/CopperheadOS/other third party ROMs, and on Google Play Android devices, it can’t require Google Play Services.

Regarding Roku:

Roku can not receive Chromecast streams, instead Roku, Twitch and several other companies have cooperated to work on a protocol competing with Chromecast, and Roku can receive those (as can a few of Amazon’s devices, and Amazon’s apps can send those streams as well).

You can learn more here: https://www.howtogeek.com/214943/how-to-use-your-roku-like-a...

> As the same Prime Video app has to work on Kindle devices, LineageOS/CopperheadOS/other third party ROMs, and on Google Play Android devices, it can’t require Google Play Services.

It can have additional functionality that only works when Google Play Services is available. Plenty of media apps run on Kindle devices as well as branded Android, and support Chromecast on Android but not Kindle.

Now, Amazon probably doesn't want to make an app that has features that work on branded Android but not Kindle, but that is a choice.

That's correct, but looking at how much money Amazon has spent trying to replicate Google's closed APIs on their Android version, I don't think it's unreasonable for them to expect an open protocol at least this time.

Amazon spent billions trying to work around Google's anticompetitive bullshit (something the open source community had to do as well with microG), and I think at least at some point Google should be held responsible for their proprietary bullshit.

Had Google actually open sourced Chromecast, on all sides, you'd have seen much higher adoption.

Regarding the other protocol - support by Amazon + twitch is still just one company :) Will read up on rest, thanks.

Chromecast support is available for a few non Google iOS apps. But I guess the blame is on Google for not opening up the protocol for nonstandard Android derived Os's.

> Google is no angel themselves. What they did to Windows Phone is no different than Amazon's behavior.

That's why breakups or heavy regulation needs to seriously considered for these companies. They have too much market power and have shown a proclivity towards abusing it in anti-competitive ways. The market has developed, and I don't think leaving it unregulated is working anymore.

We live in an era where people will assert that Standard Oil wasn't a monopoly. If a corporate action doesnt directly raise consumer prices, under modern legal thinking it isn't a monopoly.

The most ironic or telling thing about Amazon is that Walmart has now become the punchy underdog in comparison.

And they sell Nest electronics!

But on a more realistic note, Walmart has been pushing to be more innovative in the e-commerce ecosystem, purchasing various companies and opening new storefronts (like Allswell) to be more competitive.

There's also the advantage that they have in physical location.

Anyways, Disclaimer, I work for Walmart but my views and comments are my own.

Yes, but the problem is that Walmart (and others, like Best Buy) proceeded to become also-rans by also opening up their ecommerce platforms to 3rd party sellers. This rush to make everything like Amazon is destructive to the retail chain's brand itself by making it harder for consumers to find the authentic products that they are looking for, with the implicit/explicit guarantees about product quality, low-cost shipping, and return processing. When I go to walmart.com or bestbuy.com, I want to purchase something from Walmart and Best Buy, not some 3rd party with whom I have no prior relationship. It's a total race to the bottom in the retail space right now.

I guess since Amazon can use it's monopoly position to hurt Google it would be fair for Google to punish Amazon by restricting who can find products through their search engine?

Maybe a little trade war between the giants would help them realize this is stupid.

It's more troublesome for Google to retaliate. Google is already under scrutiny for unfair search results from regulatory agencies all over the globe.

Amazon has gone mostly unnoticed, and exerts their power without fear of reprisal.

if only there was some sort of federal trade agency that could fine companies for abusing their monopoly positions

If only there was a monopoly. It isn't as if you suddenly can't get these device any longer.

Monopoly power can be exerted at a whole lot less than 100% of the market.

Google also doesn't have the only place you can get search results (eg Bing). But that didn't stop Europe from handing out a $2.8 billion fine.

35% of ecommerce customer journeys already start on amazon. It is not like they totally depend on SERP rankings.

Let's see how that plays out when Chrome gives out a blank page for every Amazon domain ! <insert Brin & Page evil laugh here />

I guess since Amazon can use it's monopoly position to hurt Google it would be fair for Google to punish Amazon by restricting who can find products through their search engine?

All that will do is push people to search Amazon first cutting Google out of the loop altogether.

I wonder if it hurts Amazon in the long term. One of the reasons for defaulting to Amazon is that they carry pretty much everything. The more items it doesn't stock, the more I will shop around and start doing that more generally.

> The bigger problem is that Amazon has set themselves up as the global arbiter of commerce

Amazon may yet become that. They are not that yet. Walmart has an infamous reputation for being brutal with suppliers. That reputation is far beyond anything Amazon has yet become known for. Walmart also completely dictates who has access to their vast retail system, which is still roughly three times the size of Amazon. Simply put, Walmart's system is radically more restrictive in terms of providing selling access, than Amazon - and it's three times larger.

Half of Amazon's retail sales aren't even from Amazon, they're from independent sellers, and that percentage has been perpetually increasing. For Walmart, it's almost entirely them controlling the sales.

It has merely become popular lately to point the fear cannons at Amazon. It's a cultural mania. Last week it was Walmart everyone was terrified of. In the late 1990s, every headline was breathlessly touting how Walmart was going to take over all of retail and put everyone else out of business.

Straw man alert! Walmart introducing own-brand competition into it's marketplace and competing in price there. Amazon is introducing own-brand products into thier marketplace and forbidding specific competitors while leaving counterfitters of those same competitors. There's an enormous difference there.

Honest question: Is Amazon really that unique as a marketplace? How does the world wide volume of ebay compare to Amazon?

Do they have any traction in the Chinese market? I could easily see that one of the Chinese market places could make a push for the world market and be a serious contender.

Is eBay the right comparison? I treat them as different services - Amazon: primarily new products, fixed price, and essentially dealing with one seller (if there's an issue with a Marketplace item, Amazon CS will address it); eBay: mix of new/used products, mix of fixed prices and auctions, primarily dealing with individual sellers.

I think ebay changed a lot. Every time I search something there it's like 90% new stuff from china. On the other hand, amazon has used stuff too. I would really like to see a break down what fraction of the products on ebay are new vs. old, and how much is sold for a fixed price vs. auction.

I also don't think Amazon that unique as a global marketplace. For me, I use AliExpress more than Amazon and both of them don't operate in my country.

> I could easily see that one of the Chinese market places could make a push for the world market and be a serious contender.

Isn't Alibaba trying to do that? (I don't know much about it, but do hear its name every once in a while)

If amazon wants to get into the hardware game, they need to treat competitive hardware fairly or be hit with an anti-competitive lawsuit. There's no two ways about it.

This is creating an edge in the market where independent merchants and services can operate and their independence is their virtue.

For an example, Google has Chromecast/YouTube, Amazon has Amazon Fire/Prime Video, and they're less and less interoperable year upon year. This war creates an edge that Roku can squeeze into, which has support for every major vendor except Apple.

I find myself using Target and Walmart's websites more than ever before, not due to some moralistic protest, but simply because they're now more competitive and have products Amazon don't stock (like Google Home Mini for one example).

I find it interesting from a business perspective that Amazon chooses to push out competition, whereas most major retailers stock both own brand and branded products side by side, and profit no matter what the consumer selects.

I wonder when Alibaba US and EU will open. If Alibaba will sell anything and Amazon is protectionist, I can see that being Alibaba's edge.

When all the stores price match I have no reason to shop online unless I can’t find it in store. Amazon app is used almost exclusively to price match on my phone. Saved $1000’s

I’ll pay more to not drive to a brick and mortar at this point. I don’t want to get in my car and go to Best Buy or Target or whatever and hope they’re stocking what I want, when I know I can get it in two days from Amazon or another online retailer. I’ve been bitten by that too many times. I sometimes miss browsing in person, but I don’t miss wasting my time.

My favorite thing lately is how Lowes and Home Depot will let you look up items on their website, see how many are in stock, and, most importantly, what aisle and bay that item is in. It's usually correct, too.

I'm not going to buy those kinds of items sight unseen (go check out lumber at these places... I've gone through half a lift of pine boards to get a half dozen that are straight enough to use... And even more regular hardware, I want to put my tape on it first). But it's a struggle to find just where slightly oddball stuff might be located, if you don't know, and chances are you won't encounter somebody on staff that knows whst you're asking for and where it is in these gargantuan places.

I have taken advantage of the aisle/bay info with Home Depot. It is quite nice for things I couldn’t otherwise find. It’s not always correct but it’s helpful.

Home centers actually stock things that are hard to buy online efficiently, too. e.g. You cannot buy a large metal rolling tool chest on Amazon at a reasonable price. Husky wins that battle definitively.

Let's not forget that Amazon Prime has gotten worse with longer delivery periods even when they say it's 2 days. It has been coming later. And this is outside the holidays.

I get two day deliveries in a single day much more often than in >two days. Late deliveries happen but are very uncommon for me.

Same, and this just started after the holidays for me, and not sure why. Going on a trip, order new boots guaranteed to arrive the day before i left. Needless to say, I canceled that order the night before my trip at 10pm. And that's like the 5th time this year. They really need to quit calling it a guarantee.

Really? That's not been my anecdotal experience but would be curious to hear if this is a common experience. I have had trouble with Amazon's own courier, but have largely mitigated that issue by asking Amazon customer service to use other couriers.

Its gotten really bad for me and a lot of my friends, lots of prime deliveries on little stuff take 4-5 days, and a lot of items say one day at checkout then a day later when i get the shipping notice, It’s ridiculous. Especially so since i live under 2 miles from an Amazon warehouse.

Yup, my 2 dqy shipping is 4 days of handling and 2.5 of shipping. I am lucky if I can order monday and get it by saturday. Its nearly worthless as I tend to order enough for free shipping anyway.

This hasn't been true for me, if anything it seems faster these day. I get most 2-day shipped stuff in less than 24 hours.

I’m 35 miles from a fulfillment center in a major metro and I couldn’t get a Prime package sooner than 3 days when I was still using Amazon.

Is this submarine advertising? Every major retailer has a listing of in stock items, per store, and will do same day pickup.

So I should do my shopping online and then drive to Best Buy instead of just clicking “place order” and getting the same item at the same price in a day or two? For something I need desperately right now, okay, but for everything else my time saved is worth more than the slightly more instant gratification.

You could place the order and pick up in store. You would get the order a couple days faster, and don't have to go find the item in the aisle.

But I’d spend nearly an hour round tripping to Best Buy including commute and checkout. This is not a win for things I don’t need urgently.

I seriously doubt it’s a win for the environment either. It cannot be more efficient for me to drive a vehicle to go pick up a small package than for UPS to put the package on a truck with hundreds of others.

in-person assessment. and yes, quick availability.

Is "amount of time and dollars spent" the only part of your purchasing decision matrix?

Something to be said for supporting jobs in your community, keeping money in your area, bumping into people you might not have seen as much otherwise, etc. Stores can also be great for discovery. It's a lot easier to play with laptops at Best Buy than it is to research how the keyboard might feel online. In another product category, the local video store (we still have one!!) still beats out online in terms of being able to browse selection; I'll see frequent complaints from Netflix users about not being to find what's on.

> Is "amount of time and dollars spent" the only part of your purchasing decision matrix?

No, but it’s a big part.

> Something to be said for supporting jobs in your community, keeping money in your area,

The comment here was about “major retailers”. If you want to buy from a local mom and pop shop, awesome. There are great reasons to do that. If you’re going to Best Buy, those reasons pretty much evaporate. That money doesn’t stay in the area and the jobs probably aren't better than UPS provides.

> bumping into people you might not have seen as much otherwise

No thanks. People say this because it sounds good and is hard to refute but I don’t care a bit about bumping into people at the store. I bump into someone I care about at a store less than once a year. Interacting with people in a retail store is not generally very rewarding. They’re almost always either salespeople or strangers. People in stores are better referred to as crowds.

> Stores can also be great for discovery. It's a lot easier to play with laptops at Best Buy than it is to research how the keyboard might feel online.

Sure. There are reasons to buy in person and this is a good one. “Need to physically hold to evaluate” is not a common attribute of most of the things I buy, though. And generally free return shipping solves for this when I do need it.

This is great if you have easy access to a lot of retailers, but this is not always the case. A lot of these stores that price match are in suburbs, whereas I am in the car in the city, and it just doesn't really work for me to try and make the investment to go out there.

What about amazon's counterfeiting problem?

Note that the price stores generally match is the price 'shipped and sold by Amazon'. So stores shouldn't ever be matching counterfeit prices.

"Shipped and sold by Amazon" doesn't mean jack squat. They use their warehouses to commingle inventory from many individual suppliers.

Amazon does not commingle their inventory. You appear to be confusing 3p sellers and "fulfilled by amazon" with "sold by Amazon".

Recently a bunch of people got fake products sold by Amazon.com themselves. Amazon are commingling their own goods, or have some other significant problems in their supply chain.

People keep repeating this "not Amazon.com!" response but it hasn't been true for at least a year. Go look on /r/boardgames, /r/pcmasterrace, or that dude with the $5K camera that received a literal brick. These people post their invoices that clearly say sold by Amazon.com and people call them liars.

I've received such sold-by-Amazon items as well, but I had assumed it was simple return fraud (customer returns wrong item in a packaging that looks unopened so Amazon puts it back on stock).

Of course I can't know for sure if it was that or comingling.

Amazon definitely puts 3rd-party returns back in stock if it looks like still sellable as new - the seller help site says "We evaluate the condition of each returned item. If we determine that the item is sellable, we will return it to your inventory". So they probably do that for their own items as well.

I'm am idiot and misread the comment.

Happens to all of us from time to time! :)

If this becomes a wider thing I could see Roku having more of an edge, as it is though it's basically Amazon who has beef with everyone.

I'm pretty happy with my Chromecast despite not having Amazon Prime Video.

If you bought a shield tv, you could have Amazon prime video. They're pretty nice. I'm kind of disappointed in the new model, though. It's nice having a fully functional Android device that can gamestream, use apps that aren't made for tv with the gamepad, and stream video.

It feels almost time to start referring to partnerships rather than companies.

How long before (presuming legislation continues to lag) we have




The last line is silly. Sonos is not going to align specifically with Google. Because Sonos has a business model that is neutral to other home cylinders and voice assistants, and Amazon Alexa users can already use their Sonos speakers together with Alexa -- but not (yet) with either Google's or Apple's assistants. Sonos is similar to Roku in that sense.

At the moment Sonos works with Amazon's Alexa, not the other voice cylinders.

The above comment has been down-voted (!?) despite being factual, according to Sonos themselves!

- Sonos and Alexa integration is available as a beta version.

- "Google Home Smart Assistant doesn’t work with your Sonos system natively" ("The Google Assistant will be supported on Sonos One in 2018") [1]

- Sonos has not yet released their implementation of AirPlay 2 which is what Apple's HomePod ecosystem will be relying on. Apparently Apple themselves are not quite ready with AirPlay 2.

[1] https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4251/~/go...

You misunderstood the intent of the parent post. It's not to illustrate which companies are partnering, but to demonstrate the type of partnering we might be likely to see. You are missing the broader commentary, and only commenting on the immaterial, specific example they provided.

Nope, I didn't misunderstand the intent. I pointed out the fact that Sonos is not a good example of a company that might partner exclusively or even mostly with Google, due to their "voice-and-cylinder-neutral" business model as well as the already-available integration with Amazon.

That's a well and fine point. However, by being unclear there is no indication that those companies are not partnering. That could be construed as propagating false rumors. It's not just the intent that is important, but how people are likely to perceive it.

I'm happy with that view and will state for the record that they weren't factual partnerships.

The transit companies were also arbitrary.

Amazon should be split up soon. Im a believer this is why Alphabet was formed.

I don't know what the internal structure of Amazon looks like, but having more management for different sectors is certainly good.

You're also probably a lot more likely to receive products that aren't counterfeit when ordering from Target/etc. I've pretty much completely stopped using Amazon for that reason. It's just not worth the risk.

I see this come up fairly often, and it baffles me each time. I've probably spent an average of $50+/week on Amazon for the past several years and have never once received a counterfeit item. What items are people buying that are so frequently counterfeit?

I honestly couldn't speak to whether or not many of the items I've bought on Amazon are counterfeit. The example I saw in the article recently was a headphone anchor, and they had copied the packaging. I couldn't tell you, if I bought a headphone anchor, if the packaging looked like crud because it was counterfeit, or because the vendor who made it used cheapy packaging. Could you have bought counterfeit products that work "well enough", and you didn't know it?

I do generally just buy whatever's the cheapest price, and rarely look to see if the brand and seller name are the same (or if there's a seller with the same name as the brand). I'm kinda interested in paying more attention going forward though, so we'll see.

> What items are people buying that are so frequently counterfeit?

This is exactly my question too.

> I've probably spent an average of $50+/week on Amazon for the past several years and have never once received a counterfeit item.

I’ve been averaging >$2k/month for about ten years (combined personal and business purchases) and have never had a counterfeit product, even in categories that others claim have rampant counterfeits.

It’s a bit scattered, but I’ve seen lots of small consumer electronics (headphones, chargers etc) that are clearly counterfeits.

For example this charger is almost certainly fake: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071FZ9XP2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_rEcN...

I sometimes think that amazon should spin off the retail business as a separate entity from aws and consumer electronics companies.

None of the other businesses survive without AWS profits propping they up.

> I wonder when Alibaba US and EU will open.

Already open. https://www.aliexpress.com/

Read the story about Amazon authorizing fake Chromecast devices to be sold, while blocking the real ones. Mind you the devices look exactly the same (minus better bandwidth.) Read some of the reviews from folks buying the imitation, knowing it wasn't the real deal, but nevertheless bought them because "where else could they buy from?". Those comments and now this make me wonder how strong Amazon has become to decide what consumers can buy or not.

How is this not illegal? If google took amazon off their search engine, what would happen?

In international competition law, using your dominant position in market A in order to gain a dominant market position in market B is clearly illegal. Amazon is surely committing anti competetive behaviour, however i'm not certain about them legally speaking having a "dominant market position". Let's say lawsuits are filed, it will be moot anyhow since this type of litigation requires more time than the actual battle for the market position.

No reasonable court would conclude Amazon has a dominant position in online retail. /s

Dominant in legalize has a slightly different meaning. Especially when often akward or even weird jurisprudence comes into play. You could for example wager that if Amazon's position in market A is strong enough to dictate a dominant position in market B; this would make them a "dominant actor" in market A per definition and intent of the legislators. As such, any court could reasonably conclude that Amazon needs to be sodomized.

Less than half, and if you look at "retail" it's a single digit.

Not usually enough to get hit on monopoly measures!

It's fairly easy to breach ( international ) competition law and suffer the consequences without even coming remotely close to monopoly talk.

Sure, but you can do that without being dominant at all! When it specifically comes to the issue of dominance, I'm not sure if Amazon is really there.

Dominant or not dominant is not the main issue; whether or not Amazon is abusing it's market power is. For a fact we know that force is exerted by Amazon from a different market resulting in a strategical advantage for Amazon and a heap of deadweight loss; something that ought to be illegal in all shapes and forms when created intentionally & mostly is. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadweight_loss )

IIRC 40% is enough in most markets to have “monopoly” charges stick. I know, pretty low bar..

It's almost certainly illegal. At this point in the fight, Google and Amazon have both committed several blatant violations of antitrust law. And the US FTC has done nothing about it.

It's possible they don't think two monopolies doing illegal things to each other is a problem, or that it cancels out somehow. Or they just don't want to do anything in general, as the case seems to be.

I fear that with the number of anticompetitive actions the government has failed to act on at this point, companies may legitimately be able to claim as a defense that the government allowing these actions for so long was implicit acceptance of them as legal.

It ought to be... maybe we'll see an anti-trust case.

Obviously, companies should have some choice in how they do business, and what products they choose to sell. I won't fault drug companies for refusing to participate in state-sanctioned murder, or super markets for selling exclusively organic. Nor do I fault AWS for not advertising Google Cloud products.

But when you build a platform/infrastructure, maybe you also have to give up some control.

it's not illegal for Google to block Amazon's app store from Google play

Amazon's app store, just like any other app that supports installing other apps, is already unavailable on the Play Store. One is of course quite free to sideload it if one wishes.

Very few people seem to remember Google started this little war with blocking access to Google Apps on Amazon devices and blocking their app store on Google Play equipped devices.

It is weird though because a couple months ago I thought they had announced they had come to some agreement, and now it seems to be escalating again.

Did Amazon even apply for a MADA with Google to use the Play Store and their apps? They can choose at any time to not make their fork incompatible with mainline Android, and get access to the Play Store just like any other OEM. You seem to blame Google for Amazon wanting to have it both ways.

The MADA is not a legal document, and it's not really possible for Amazon to comply with it.

Why is that? All Amazon has to do is pass the CTS so that all Android apps can run on their devices and not just Amazon Android apps.

As you're well aware, not only would Fire OS fail the CTS, it would be illegal to attempt to force Amazon Kindles to ship with Play Books in order to get access to other Google Apps. Which the MADA does indeed attempt.

Fire OS would fail the CTS because Amazon chooses not to use Google Play Services and instead use their replacements. I'm also confused as to your claims about illegality. What specifically would be illegal about Google asking Amazon to install their apps and services on their tablets so that they can pass the CTS?

One more thing, when Amazon found out people were installing Google Play Services on their Fire Tablets they issued a software update to prevent that loophole.

I don't think Google's contractual terms are illegal, though they certainly have a profound impact on any competition that uses Android or builds Android apps. See this article for a detailed analysis of Google's Mobile App Distribution Agreements (MADA): http://www.benedelman.org/news-021314/

Furthermore, from my understanding, for any device to support streaming to Chromecast, it must have Google Play Services, which in turns means complying with MADA. The leaked MADA documents that the public has seen requires you to distribute all of Google's apps in a prominent position on your device, prevents you from forking Android - even on other, completely unrelated devices (prohibiting what Amazon did with Fire OS), requires you to give Google detailed sales information about your devices each month, and more. (Read the article I linked above, and/or review one of the linked MADAs (2).)

So from what I've read about the MADA, supporting Chromecast streaming on Amazon devices would require a complete "takeover" of every Android-based device that Amazon sells, replacing FireOS with Google's Android, and forcing Amazon to bundle Google Play Services and all of Google's apps, and giving those apps the prominent position over Amazon's. The MADA would require this for all devices, even ones that wouldn't support Chromecast streaming.

In a Recode interview (1), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos implied that these business terms are the heart of the issue:

> "We sell Roku, we sell Xbox, we sell Playstation. We're happy to sell competitive products on Amazon. When we sell those devices, we want our player — our Prime Video player — to be on the device, and we want it to be on the device with acceptable business terms. You can always get the player on the device. The question is, can you get it on there with acceptable business terms? And if you can't, then we don't want to sell it to our customers, because they're going to be buying it thinking they can watch Prime Video, and then they're going to be disappointed and return it."

(1) https://www.recode.net/2016/5/31/11826394/amazon-apple-tv-go... (circa 1h:15m in video)

(2) http://www.benedelman.org/docs/samsung-mada.pdf - see page labeled 6 of 14

Well, it depends on whether or not you believe Google is operating any monopolies. The concept of 'tying' or 'bundling', where you require anyone wanting product A which is a monopoly, to also include product B, is illegal in both the US and most other jurisdictions.

If any of the twenty or so mandatory apps the MADA requires constitutes a monopoly, then they are bundling in violation of US antitrust laws.

Can you cite the US antitrust law Google is breaking by bundling their free apps and services with their OS?

Tying is codified in both the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Act.

Google Play Services are free so your accusation doesn't seem to apply to the definition of Tying as it applies to antitrust.

Tying (informally, product tying) is the practice of selling one product or service as a mandatory addition to the purchase of a different product or service. In legal terms, a tying sale makes the sale of one good (the tying good) to the de facto customer (or de jure customer) conditional on the purchase of a second distinctive good (the tied good). Tying is often illegal when the products are not naturally related. It is related to but distinct from freebie marketing, a common (and legal) method of giving away (or selling at a substantial discount) one item to ensure a continual flow of sales of another related item.

Horizontal tying is the practice of requiring consumers to pay for an unrelated product or service together with the desired one.[1] A hypothetical example would be for Bic to sell its pens only with Bic lighters. (However, a company may offer a limited free item with another purchase as a promotion.

Vertical tying is the practice of requiring customers to purchase related products or services together, from the same company.[1] For example, a company might mandate that its automobiles could only be serviced by its own dealers. In an effort to curb this, many jurisdictions require that warranties not be voided by outside servicing; for example, see the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in the United States.

The Wikipedia Tying entry[1] also makes references to both Apple and Microsoft products. Of particular interest was how Microsoft not only ties their own products, but also ties Android OEM's, who they shake down to license their patents, to bundle their Microsoft mobile applications.

>Microsoft has also tied its software to the third-party Android mobile operating system, by requiring manufacturers that license patents it claims covers the OS and smartphones to ship Microsoft Office Mobile and Skype applications on the devices.


Didn't Amazon start this by not allowing Chromecast to be sold on their platform?

Chromecasts can't be set up on Amazon devices such as the Kindle Fire, because Google prohibits Google Apps from being installed on Android forks. Therefore, Google was refusing to permit compatibility, functionally, with Amazon's devices. It appears that Amazon attempted to negotiate with Google over compatibility issues, and didn't get anywhere, and hence, chose to not sell devices which were intentionally blocked from being used with their tablets. (And of course, they did similar with Apple TV for the same reason.)

There's no technical reason Chromecasts can't be set up by Kindle Fire devices, it's an intentionally-implemented block by Google.

Amazon's fork of Android is not a platform Google is obligated to support. Amazon chooses not to include Chromecast support in their Amazon Video Android app

It should also be noted that Amazon's fork of Android, with the exception of the Linux Kernel, is closed source. They're not even a very good open source citizen as I don't think they've contributed anything back to AOSP.

That's an unfair statement in the great scheme of open source. When you fork the Android Open Source Project you only get a backbone version of the OS. You start at level 0. Google keeps all its custom proprietary and key technologies closed (rightfully). Amazon is keeping its customization closed as well.

As far as contributing back to the AOSP, that's another area where Google's iron grip on Android shows. You can report bugs and help to patch things, but there's no actual way to contribute anything meaningful to the roadmap.

What you fail to realize is that a lot of Android OEM's contribute code back to AOSP. That is being a good open source citizen. Amazon has yet to contribute anything.

>There's no technical reason Chromecasts can't be set up by Kindle Fire devices, it's an intentionally-implemented block by Google.

This is some high-level misinformation being spread on your part, and not the first time you've done this on HN.

Chromecast is an open SDK - Amazon has the power to implement it at any time: https://developers.google.com/cast/docs/terms

The Chromecast SDK for Android works on devices without Play Services? Since when?

The Chromecast SDK allows Amazon to receive Chromecast streams on the Fire TV? Since when?

Cause from what I see here, half of the SDK’s terms ban casting without the SDK, and the SDK itself doesn’t work on devices without Play Services such as the Kindle devices, nor does it work to receive streams.

You’re spreading bullshit again, as every (x|g)oogler has in the other Chromecast thread.

Give me an open source library or full protocol documents I can use to send and receive chromecast streams, so I can stream to my raspberry pi and send streams from a non-Google device, and your argument will have merit.

Does the Google Cast SDK allow you to "set up" a new Chromecast device, as I explicitly stated in my comment?

Your employer's site seems to indicate not: https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/

What I say reflects my own personal opinion, but you already saw that when you looked at my profile and googled my username to dox me.

Again, Amazon has the power to add Chromecast support to the Fire OS. They chose not to, just as they chose to remove chromecast support from Twitch when they acquired it.

The developer docs you linked do not state a way to do initial configuration/setup on a Chromecast. How do you do it? How would Amazon implement it so that someone could buy a Google Chromecast and install and use it without a Google-approved device to set it up? How do you connect a Chromecast to your Wi-Fi network from a Kindle Fire?

I meant Chromecast devices being sold on Amazon. There was some drama where they even forbade marketplace sellers from selling the devices


IIRC, they stopped selling Chromecasts due to the unavailability of Prime Video on them and/or the unavailability of YouTube on Fire TV.

Amazon chose not to implement chromecast on with their Prime Video. They have the power to implement it.

>Very few people seem to remember Google started this little war with blocking access to Google Apps on Amazon devices

It wasn't quite that. Amazon got pissy about Google following Apple's lead in taking a cut of digital in-app purchases. It's an insane policy, but it is an Apple policy that the industry adopted.

Google didn't start "this little war" by blocking access to Google Apps on Amazon devices. Amazon chose to use their own apps, their own services and to also not be compliant with the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS).

With "blocking access", you mean, they took the Android Open Source Project AOSP, compiled it, and added a few apps without removing any functionality or APIs.

It is not Amazon’s fault that the Android Compatibility Test Suite requires the availability of proprietary Google code, and that the AOSP itself does not pass the CTS.

It’s Google’s fault that Android’s open source version isn’t even considered Android anymore, nor does it have even a working email app anymore. It’s Google’s fault that over the last few years, the AOSP search app, music app, calendar app, contacts app, and finally even the phone app were all dropped and lost support.

>It is not Amazon’s fault that the Android Compatibility Test Suite requires the availability of proprietary Google code, and that the AOSP itself does not pass the CTS.

The CTS is used to guarantee all Android apps on Google Play work on the device. That's on Amazon for not really caring to maintain compatibility and instead use their own services as a replacement. As for the AOSP not passing the CTS, it was never intended to do so.

>It’s Google’s fault that Android’s open source version isn’t even considered Android anymore, nor does it have even a working email app anymore.

According to the following link updates were made to the Email app 2 days ago which seems to indicate it's still maintained.


>It’s Google’s fault that over the last few years, the AOSP search app, music app, calendar app, contacts app, and finally even the phone app were all dropped and lost support.

These apps require Google services to even work and it's unrealistic to think Google is going to provide non OHA members free access to their servers.

> The CTS is used to guarantee all Android apps on Google Play work on the device. That's on Amazon for not really caring to maintain compatibility and instead use their own services as a replacement. As for the AOSP not passing the CTS, it was never intended to do so.

Back on 2.3.7, all apps did work on AOSP. The same on 4.0. Only after 4.0 did critical functionality get moved to the Play Services. This was, as the EU antitrust investigation that's still underway, has already found, anticompetitive.

> According to the following link updates were made to the Email app 2 days ago which seems to indicate it's still maintained.

The app shows a single screen, "Please switch to GMail".

> These apps require Google services to even work and it's unrealistic to think Google is going to provide non OHA members free access to their servers.

All these apps were entirely open source — including Google Search, Google Talk and Google Books — during Android 2.3.7

4.0 dropped Talk, Books, Search, Music.

Between 4.0 and 5.0, Calendar, Contacts, and the Phone app were dropped, and even parts of the launcher.

When I bought all but my latest Nexus device, half of the APIs that are now closed source used to be open. This is fraud, advertising on the box a "fully open source" system, and then closing it off.

Google is absolutely at fault here, and I consider this closing off of AOSP a direct attack.

Android is what you get when you compile from AOSP, if your app doesn't run there, it's broken. Amazon has done massive amounts of work to get as much of the CTS passing as possible (and actually, with their own services they did manage to pass the automated part of the CTS once), but after that, Google introduced new cryptographic signatures on their APIs to prevent this. Amazon (and microG) both solved that by live-patching out the signature checks. As result, Google introduced SafetyNet, a DRM system which verifies the integrity of the system (including bootloader, efuses, and trustzone parts), and reports this to a Google server, which then reports the signature to the servee of the app dev.

Amazon has done everything possible to keep their services compatible, even building compatibility layers for all (!) Google Play APIs.

Google on the other hand has introduced new DRM and obfuscation features with every version.

I'm not sure how the fuck I'm supposed to see Google as the good actor here, considering they're continuously trying to prevent any competition in this space, and are hurting the open source community.

And that's without ever considering Amazon's store. When I published an app in Amazon's store, they got a human to test it for me on all Kindle devices, on hardware. I talked to the human, gave demo access, etc. I got live feedback. When I complained about a missing API, they had it fixed within of a few weeks.

Google on the other hand doesn't offer any support, API complaints get ignored, and to this day on the Nexus 7 "ab".split("") returns something different than on the Nexus 5 — ["", "a","b"] vs ["a", "b"]. On some other Nexus devices even ["a", "b", ""]. Plus Socket.setKeepAlive is broken on Chromebooks. SocketChannel.read and SocketChannel.close both take a lock on the same object, SocketChannel.read can block forever and Thread.interrupt calls SocketChannel.close. Deadlock. Plus thousands more of such bugs which I had to work around, and requested fixing for since 2013. Bugreports filed, Googlers messaged on Google+. Nothing. String.split got fixed in 7.0 — because Google replaced their implementation with the OpenJDK one.

And when questioned about updating the SSLEngine, Google offers a Play Services API to do so — but starting with 9.0, will prevent any non-system apps from doing this on their own.

It's not just that Play Services offers additional functionality — AOSP functionality got removed. The Stepcounter API only reports steps taken while your app was open, requiring either a foreground notification, or using the Google Fit APIs instead. The first annoys users, the second is incompatible with HIPAA and half of European law.

Seriously, at every step of the way, Google throws boulders in the path of me, how am I supposed to support them?

because of this Google Play and Play Services cannot be install on the device Google Casting depends on this.

I don't know. It is like theatres forbid moviegoers to take their own food into it, so people can only choose a limited selection from within.

I see this as more of a morale problem than a legal one. As a company advertised itself as customer obsession, this smells pretty bad.

Why would it be illegal? Amazon should be able to decide what products they sell and Google should be able to stop selling at any retailer they want.

Amazon is a very smart company that invests heavily in research and development to stay ahead and loved by people.

Amazon will continue to stay ahead of monopoly calls as long as they don't make moves like this. Monopolies can benefit for some time such as AT&T with software/labs/modern applications (C++) wiring for telecom, Microsoft with Windows desktop and getting people on the internet, Apple with the smart phone, Amazon with online purchasing, Google with search, cable/telco providers and broadband access etc. But once these companies start pushing too hard on the monopoly levers, blocking competitors, actively breaking competitors products/software/standards, blocking out fair markets, then they start to have problems and maybe will get broken up. AT&T was broken up, Microsoft got slowed considerably resulting in Apple/Google rising, Amazon and Google need to keep it fair or else it will get more and more heated.

Moves like blocking competitors or competing products, rather than just making better products, are troubling and signs that the some people in charge there are taking cheap ways out to gain short term advantage. Capitalism only works well when there are fair markets and competition, otherwise it is big fish oligarchies of companies that works for noone controlling everything.

The more ruthless strategy would be to continue to sell Nest products but ship only malfunctioning counterfeits.

That is what they do for Chromecast, https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s?k=chromecast

Wow, that is unbelievable and embarrassing that they allow that. With Prime shipping!

They do manage to keep the counterfeiters off their house brands, so they definitely can control counterfeits if they like. Too bad they do not care.

Product quality is horrible on Amazon. AliExpress seems to be as good, if not better, with more consistent listings and possibly a better search.

I've found AliExpress to be pretty nice, you're skipping an entire layer of sketchy arbitrage resellers. I've only bought industrial / electronic components from them there though, so my experience is limited.

I've seen this a lot. I use google to search Amazon almost exclusively.

First line in the description: “this isn’t a Chromecast”

It almost feels like that's there so it ranks in the search results for "Chromecast"

This seems really likely. The choice to literally put a Chrome logo on it is quite telling. Finding ways to drop your competitors' names without violating trademark is an art form. (I don't get how they haven't been delisted because of the logo.)

I can't find an exact source right now but as I recall TJ Watson did basically this while working for NCR. They set up an exchange for buying and selling used cash registers and sabatoged the competitor's models so they'd get a reputation for being unreliable.

That’s not what they’re doing now?

As someone who has been shopping on Amazon since the late 1990s I have recently stopped buying anything branded on there anyway, or at least anything branded where I care about receiving real OEM products. Still a fan overall but one too many knock-off products for me.

After a few years of using Amazon pretty much exclusively for everything then going back to other sites for branded items, I have been pleasantly surprised how much better "all the other" online stores have gotten at fast free shipping and reliable service.

I don't see why this would make anyone thinks this is illegal as it doesn't stop anyone from buying Google Home products. It isn't as though Best Buy is selling Amazon products and Apple stopped selling nest in their retail stores as well.

At this point, Alexa works nicely with my Nest thermostat. If they break that, then I will be mighty annoyed because I will have to reach into my pocket to change the temperature instead of just blurting out the desired temperature of my abode.

Would it be okay for Google to remove Amazon from their search engine given that nothing stops people from trying Amazon.com on their browser?

To be precise, changing it to aliexpress would be compareable with the chromecast/nest situation

Or no longer opening amazon.com in Chrome browser?

Amazon isn’t a store like the others you’ve mentioned, they claim they are a marketplace

Where do they claim this?

Sure, but at the same time, Google ranking shopping comparison sites lower didn't stop anyone from using them either, yet they got hit with $2.7B from the EU.

This is usually the beginning of lots of bad things. When a company with such a monopoly starts banning competitors to promote their own products, it’s clear that their customers aren’t at the core of their engine. You should never ‘be evil’ to your own customers for short-term profit gain.

Come on! Trade wars are good. Amazon will win. It's easy!

When giants create walled gardens, we all lose.

somebody from Amazon want to say where the customer obsession is that in blocking product ts that have good reviews?

Hopefully they will sell knockoffs from China.

They also don't/won't sell Chromecast product.

This is the danger of vertical integration. Once upon a time the US government did built and used antitrust and antimonopoly legislation.

The US needs laws and a DOJ that can put an end to this kind of market power abuse. What Google and Amazon do to each other publicly they do daily to millions of individuals and small businesses that are too weak to retaliate.

The problem is that these players are just so big, that's why we read about. The poor little shop down the street that is bullied by Amazon has no way of voicing their problems. Maybe it's just me, but I have been avoiding making Amazon the first stop when I buy something, and it's difficult because they are so omnipresent. But once I bought a painting from China which never arrived, probably counterfeit and Amazon never reimbursed me. Since then I am not a big Amazon fan anymore and stories like this make me wonder what options there are to bring a bit more diversity into this market?

I'm going to repeat the sentiment of a post I made in another place (about websites sharing PII) -What aspect of trade and commerce regulation is not being applied here, that we have a tool in the armory for, in the body of the regulator?

What would you like a competent trade regulator to do here?

I'm naive, but I'd like them to tell amazon to fk off out of this behaviour and penalise them significantly. I think either a shop has a giant sign on the door "we don't sell NEST" or not. Simply not providing it, when in other ways its in competition with the suppliers of NEST feels like trade discrimination for predatory outcomes. Supplying competitive items, including forged items puts you in a very strange place.

Apple stores don't sell windows PCs, this is understood. If Apple established a general purpose computing outlet, supplied PCs but decided not to stock Dell or HP (note, not that Dell or HP refused to supply: Apple decided not to stock) then I'd say the same thing. If Dell or HP didn't stock to Apple stores, and if Google refuses to stock to Amazon, then the beef is with the supply side, not the distribution side. Same logic, different direction.

On the bright side, for people worried about monopolies and corporations having too much power, this severely hurts Amazon's brand. They really are a much less useful site when instead of being "the place where you can buy anything" they are "the place where you can buy Amazon products, and a few other things too".

How is that legal? Microsoft took on antitrust lawsuits for bundling its browser with its OS. This seems much worse.

Smacks of monopolistic behavior from Amazon

Mr. Anti-trust has been waiting for Amazon I believe. These childish moves will just speed that up.

Is this legal?

It’s almost as if when you get companies as large as countries, they start having trade wars.

I wonder whether Amazon accounts for this properly. If someone asked them to remove a competitors products, how much money would they demand? They'd have to calculate the damage this does their brand. Do they calculate in this case?

This is because Google removing youtube app from Fire devices.

well done everyone. we have made amazon the gatekeeper of the consumer market. don't make Baron Amazon angry or he will have you run out of town.

I wonder how much damage to Amazon’s bottom line Google could do by simply suppressing it from its search results.

That would be brutal and probably antitrust-y...better to implement some algorithm change for product search that weighs in counterfeit risk.

Search for "lightning cable" shows multiple Amazon listings on the first page, similar for batteries and other items that are routinely counterfeited. Google isn't doing the user a favor by routing them to suspect merchandise.

That would be cutting the nose to spite the face.

I assume he was talking about non-paid search results in which case: how so?

It's no like you're going to change your search engine to Bing because Google stopped showing organic search results for Amazon.

I just searched for e.g. "Acer Predator Helios 300" and Amazon is second non-paid result.

I would imagine that's the case for a lot of searches and not being in search results would hurt them a lot.

And to be clear: I think it should be illegal for Google to selectively and anti-competitively tweak search results just as it should be illegal for Amazon to selectively and anti-competitively refuse to sell products.

I have no problem with this. Free market. If you want Nest products buy them from the Google Store (https://store.google.com/category/home_entertainment). Amazon is not required nor should they be to sell competitors products.

Just because something is legal, doesn't mean that we as consumers must like it.

I'm a consumer as well. I actually just bought a Nest thermostat and the Google Store experience is just as good as Amazon. Free shipping. I don't get the complaining.

The big problem is the lack of interoperability that this encourages. No Amazon Prime in Chromecast. No Google Play on Amazon Fire. No integration with Alexa and Nest. The petty squabbles hurt the customers’ experience.

I don't think we can call multiple billions of dollars petty squabbles. Both companies view their home automation and smart devices as critical products. You can add Apple HomePod to the mix as well.

Wait, there was Alexa Nest integration. Was it pulled?

Alexa can control Nest, yes: https://nest.com/support/article/Nest-and-Amazon-Alexa. That skill would be hard to get rid of, unless Amazon explicitly forbade access to Nest APIs.

I wasn’t aware there was integration there. I’m probably just wrong about that one.

As an Amazon customer I'm tired of their beefs with the rest of the tech industry.

Should Google also remove all of the Amazon apps from Google Play and return the Jet app every time someone searches for the Amazon app on Google Play?

ten bucks you will still be able to buy fake nests on amazon

and any fake or pirated app on google play

The fake Nest will do so much more, though. When it's not being used by a botnet to DDOS sites it's cryptomining Monero in its downtime.

great ideas! laughed so hard woke people nearby

No big loss, as those devices aren't smart to begin with.

It’s almost like they are asking for government regulation.

That something of such dubious “value” would be subject to this kind of competition between giants is shocking to me.

Maybe I’m just a paranoiac, but given the choice of Amazon, or Google having mics/cameras in my home, I would choose neither. I can’t think of a company I would trust to do that, and yet even people sensitive to privacy concerns on one hand seem blinded by the most petty convenience offered by these devices.

The stakes are huge. Both Amazon and Google are building out a new voice-powered operating system that can control everything in your life — from your lights to your garage door to the music and video you stream.

That’s... terrifying.

You have a voice powered operating system in your pocket with any modern cell phone. Sure, you can trigger it off using a software switch but do you really trust that?

Apparently enough people trust it that they keep buying the latest phone models year after year.

Anyone who is terrified by this technological shift should at least be cognizant that you are already basically recorded in some way whenever you go out in public in any major city.

This is just the next shift.

I can’t control anything beyond my home, but that’s an ancient fact of life. I can monitor what’s being sent and received by my phone or computers, but Alexa or whatever Google has?

This is more than the “next shift” and I can feel the water getting too hot for this frog.

what is the difference between your computer's https traffic and Alexas? you can record both and decipher neither (unless you're very clever)

The difference is that I have near total control of my computer's https traffic, whereas I don't have hardy any control over Alexa's.

> That’s... terrifying.

Agreed. But we seem to be in a minority considering how popular these devices are, measured in terms of the millions of such units sold[1].

I guess they are taping into the 'human beings are inherently lazy' thing.

[1] Source:

> A year ago, Gigaom said Nest was selling 40,000-50,000 thermostats per month. Devitt estimates Nest is selling 100,000 thermostats per month now.


You're not paranoid-- its common sense. We have ABSOLUTELY no control over these devices we're inviting into our homes. We are voluntarily paying for a surveillance apparatus that can be turned against us at any moment.

Even if you believe Apple/Google/Amazons intentions are honorable-- these devices will be attacked by every intelligence agency. It is an act of insanity to but this stuff.

> We have ABSOLUTELY no control over these devices we're inviting into our homes

This is rather alarmist since I control both the power and internet supply to any smart devices I bring into my home.

I have much less control over my phone than my Echo.

I can root my phone and monitor outgoing traffic. If I unplug my smart speaker it’s a brick with zero functionality. I have a range of options with my phone, I have binary options with an Echo or similar device.

You can root your phone and believe you’re monitoring outgoing traffic. Your phone hardware could easily be surreptitiously sending data over 4G and you would likely be unable to verify.

Also why do you imagine that an echo is fundamentally unable to be rooted?

I tend to agree. I've been a huge privacy and OSS advocate for years, and still consider myself to be so. Yet, over the holidays, based on ravings from friends and family, I picked up some Google Homes on sale and have been loving them for the convenience they offer me and my family.

That said, I am deeply concerned about where we are headed in the future. I have a natural distrust of all organizations that grows exponentially with the size of that organization. I don't want to make a choice between the lesser of evils. Yet, as we get deeper and deeper into the pervasiveness of technology, I see a real inability to participate that comes as a result of abstaining. Historically OSS has been late to the party, but at least they show up. I have a hard time seeing open source projects keeping up. I had high hopes in mycroft but it never materialized. I'm not too invested in Google Home to bail, so my soul may still be redeemable. I am nervous about our future options tho.

> That’s... terrifying.

In what ways? How do you think people will be harmed?

"Alexa, why doesn't my daddy agree with Emperor of Mankind, His Excellency Jeff Bezos?"

Next day, daddy doesn't come home from work, kid never sees him again.

An intentionally extreme example, but this type of thing is certainly within the realm of possibility, and gradually making small encroachments.

> this type of thing is certainly within the realm of possibility

In your scenario, Bezos is an evil worldwide overlord who murders non-supporters casually. And yet somehow the real problem is an Echo on the kitchen counter.

Just... what the fuck?

“Realm of possibility” means something very different to you than to me.

Overlords who casually murder non-supporters is not far-fetched by any stretch, such regimes have risen dozens of times just in the last 100 years. These overlords haven't quite reached "worldwide" status yet, but use your imagination.

A device that instantaneously and irrevocably transmits anything spoken to it to HQ, and then automatically transcribes it and makes it available for analysis, is absolutely a dangerous tool for censorship and repression. The fact that it looks nice on your counter and also spits out weather reports doesn't automatically invalidate those risks.

These BigCos already compose complex, fairly accurate estimations of our interests and beliefs based on the data they read out of our emails, search history, and yes, voice commands. This data is used to make advertising decisions, but there's no reason that the same data can't be applied to "pre-moderate" the opinions of those who've expressed "dangerous views" in private, or worse. It just hasn't been used that way yet (to our knowledge, though it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Facebook or Google are already punishing/down-ranking accounts that express sentiments they dislike).

Inviting these companies into your house to sit in every room and listen for "wake words", and then send up snippets of audio to HQ, should not be dismissed as a casual thing, even if the tradeoff is considered acceptable by some.

This is absurd. When Bezos becomes the dark lord you imagine, just unplug your Echo and throw it away. Problem solved. In the meantime, your use or non-use of an Echo seems to have no meaningful impact on the rise of dark lord Bezos.

Also you well know that the Echo is not transmitting everything it hears to HQ. It transmits only when invoked, which can be spurious but is not constant. Same for Apple and Google equivalents.

I don’t think Bezos = Sauron... but this is just wrong:

This is absurd. When Bezos becomes the dark lord you imagine, just unplug your Echo and throw it away. Problem solved.

How much data will have been collected and stored by then? Let’s just put Bezos aside for a moment, and think about foreign and domestic intelligence orgs which will get their fingers into this. Let’s remember a bit of WWII, when harmless census data empowered the Nazis to track down people with Jewish ancestry.

It’s not about what you think Bezos or today’s govt will do with the information, but what the corporate raiders and govts will do with it for the rest of your life.

> How much data will have been collected and stored by then?

It doesn’t matter. If the concern is that Bezos will flip the echo to be a political surveillance device, there is an immediate fix. Yes, the existing cache of data may still be around, but that wasn’t the concern posed by the original poster. The concern was specifically that after Bezos becomes the dark lord, an “innocent” question could result in politically motivated murder.

If your concern with the echo is that you don’t want anything recording anything in your house, that is reasonable and you should not get an echo. Of course, you should probably also not carry a phone.

> Let’s remember a bit of WWII, when harmless census data empowered the Nazis to track down people with Jewish ancestry.

And yet we still do the census because the value is high and the concern low. The fact that a thing can be abused does not mean it should not be used.

It doesn’t matter. If the concern is that Bezos will flip the echo to be a political surveillance device, there is an immediate fix. Yes, the existing cache of data may still be around, but that wasn’t the concern posed by the original poster.

Well it’s my concern, and I suspect others have it too. I’m not trying to weigh in on the side of “Bezos is evil” by any means, I’m just adding a dimension that seemed to be neglected.

I totally understand that. It’s just not really the scenario proposed.

Personally I’m not very concerned about the Echo, which is why I own it. But I do understand the reasonable concern that records could be subpoenaed or the data feed could be tapped.

It transmits everything after the wake word. My example of the Echo being used to monitor the political education of children is very plausible. It depends on a child using the wake word and asking the Echo an innocent question without understanding the broader implications, e.g., that something bad can happen if you let some big powerful group know that you're asking questions that they don't want people to ask.

Last I checked, the Echo had 3 potential wake words: "Alexa", "Echo", and "Amazon". I don't use "Alexa" because I knew a kid named Alexa growing up and I didn't like her. I don't want to remember her every time I talk to the machine. I use "Echo" but when I'm listening to audiobooks or podcasts and the word "Echo" comes up, the thing activates, and maybe I _don't want_ Amazon to know what podcasts or books I listen to. It also happens on words that sound kinda-sorta like "Echo". Random "accidental" invocation and the loss of control over the listener then becomes a real thing, especially with a wake word like "Amazon".

All they'd have to do is say "We've found 'Amazon' is the best wake word and 90% of our people use it so it's the default now", and suddenly, they'd be hearing a lot of casual conversations and opinions about what people think of this 'Amazon'. Now imagine that this really does become a tool for political oppression and they add a few "silent wake words" that don't make the ring light up.

I have 3 Echos. My kids ask it questions all the time. If I were to teach my children some politically incorrect belief or some religious tenet that counters the dominant religious tenets of the day, and they ask the Echo for more information about it, someone at Amazon may hear that, and a computer at Amazon would certainly process and analyze it.

Some day, the result of that analysis may be flagging for further investigation or addition to dissident watchlists. They may even apply this to archived recordings, all of which you yourself can play back (for now).

Imagine someone from the other side of the aisle guessed $Prominent_Politician's Amazon password. What would happen if there was a voice recording of that politician asking something that doesn't look so good? Would the attacker just say "Oh boy I better not share this, that wouldn't be very nice?"

In this age when people like Jo Cox and Steve Scalise are targeted by radical citizen-assassins, how can we pretend there is no risk? How can we pretend like this data is somehow intrinsically impregnable to technically sophisticated political extremists? And what happens when a demagogue mainstreams that extremist perspective, and writes laws that require Google or Amazon to submit these recordings for the good of the people?

I'm not trying to be alarmist, and I obviously think that the tradeoff is not horrible right now since I have 3 of these spy devices (and a Nest cam), but we have to understand that these are real things, real possibilities. It is very naive to presume that this couldn't or wouldn't happen (or even that it doesn't on some scale -- I'm sure a subpoena or NSL could get this data).

> My example of the Echo being used to monitor the political education of children is very plausible.

“Plausible” does not mean “not literally impossible”. It means something is reasonably possible. Your scenario is not reasonably possible. It is exceedingly unlikely. It is possible, perhaps plausible, that the government could tap the echo data feed, but that’s really a much different scenario than the active monitoring of children’s political education that you imagine.

You clearly don’t believe in the plausibility of these scenarios or you would not have three Echos in your house.

>“Plausible” does not mean “not literally impossible”. It means something is reasonably possible. Your scenario is not reasonably possible. It is exceedingly unlikely.

"Plausible" means it reasonably could happen, yes. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that it's expected to happen in the immediate term (unless that's the pre-existing context to the discussion).

I don't believe conditions are such that it will happen right now. But that doesn't put it into the realm of mere theory, the things that make you say "I mean, sure, that's possible" behind rolling eyes.

Given the correct political conditions, I would venture that these eventualities are not just plausible, but downright expected. Maybe not the black bag, but certainly monitoring, penalization, enforced re-education (which portends black bagging).

>You clearly don’t believe in the plausibility of these scenarios or you would not have three Echos in your house.

Most of us do a lot of things that we know we really shouldn't do out of convenience, habit, etc.

I don't think it's likely that I'd get picked up for anything that my kids end up telling my Echo, at least not at this juncture, which is why I still have them.

If my religious or political beliefs were more fringe, or if the ground continues to crumble such that they become fringe by virtue of the cliff of acceptable discourse growing ever-shorter, then I would certainly consider it unsafe to let the children have access to the Echo. We monitor it now, but it's in a place where they can talk to it if they want. Wouldn't be that way if I thought we had something to worry about.

It's true that the archived recordings could also be used against us, but I think that we're moderate enough that there'd be too many other more worrisome targets to pursue first. Of course, you never really know.

Should things get this way, I would probably still keep one of the listeners hooked up in some room that is rarely used for conversation and feed it information that the bosses would be happy about. Maybe I would say "Echo, please tell me about all of Jeff Bezos's accomplishments."

In a more realistic climate where Bezos doesn't cross over into overt dictatorship, it may be smart to do this alternately with various political figures, so that I can cherry-pick proof of early admiration for whichever political figure wins and implements the dystopian future. This would be much smarter than just unplugging the device and having the line go dead, especially if they correlate the date the feed went dead with a specific political event.


(of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable.

You argument is failing this test, it is very very improbable that current echoes will be used for anything like this.

I disagree? I don't think things will deteriorate quickly enough that it will be an issue on the current-gen hardware, but we're discussing the capabilities here, and why people may be skittish about giving these companies an unconstrained inlet into their homes. Technical plausibility does not necessarily imply there's a likelihood of deployment, though I think there would be if the right political circumstances came about. We're talking about the abilities of the devices and the ease of misuse, not whether Jeff Bezos fancies himself a future evil emperor or not -- only Jeff Bezos knows that!

All existing Echo models, afaik, are easily capable of being deployed and utilized for these purposes. I don't know whether a remote firmware update can change the wake words that can activate the device or not, but other than that, there is no good reason why this wouldn't happen other than just nobody has done it. From a technical perspective, this kind of use is completely plausible.

Whether or not the political will to exploit this capacity en masse will arise or not is a different matter, and I'm not really betting one way or the other on that.

Not if amazon would be in China

> this type of thing is certainly within the realm of possibility

That's the same kind of thinking that makes people so scared of being victimized by violent crime even though things are safer now than they ever have been.

It's possible, but it's also possible that all of the carbon dioxide in the room randomly collects around your head and you suffocate.

Got to think more insidious. Plausible deniability, parallel reconstruction etc.

"Alexa, why doesn't my daddy agree with Emperor of Mankind, His Excellency Jeff Bezos?"

Three months later daddy gets a poor performance rating a work.

In the propaganda: "Only losers disagree with his supremacy out of jealousy."

And the stats seem to support it.

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