With Apple likely to unveil its smart-home system at the Worldwide Developers Conference next month, the stage could be set for a clash with rival Google for the nascent market. Smart-homes—household devices, ranging from air-conditioning to security, that can be controlled with your smartphone—are a market for the future and the two tech companies are keen on establishing themselves firmly in it. Now, Google sought the first-mover’s advantage with its acquisition of Nest, the smart thermostat-maker, but Apple’s plan is to partner device-makers initially whose products will use its system and will be retailed in its stores. What is interesting is the market offers, by far, the best opportunity for vendor lock-in—it isn’t very likely that one would replace the smart devices in one’s home, powered by either Android or iOS, as often as one could replace the phone that controls them. And given that the two companies have sparred in the past on many things, from patents to map services, a likely scenario is indeed the two companies going head-to-head to dominate the market.
But, at the same time, there is also a great opportunity to Apple and Google to collaborate in Apple’s strategy for entry. Apple is assuming a role that is unfamiliar to it—so far, it has been a maker of products, not a retailer. And Google already has Nest while it is looking to acquire Dropcam, mobile-controlled video-cams that can be used for home surveillance—and both products could use any expansion in retail outreach.