The world's largest tech companies are all vying to dominate the smart home, and when you think about what's at stake, it's not hard to figure out why.
The smart home industry already generated $43 billion in revenues in 2015 and is estimated to more than double that to $100 by 2020, according to Juniper Research. But perhaps just as significant is the ability to further embed customers in a company's ecosystems of products and services.
"If you step back and look at the Internet of Things, the smart home is [already] a real proven ground," ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins said.
Amazon (AMZN) has been leading the pack with its Echo product family, with Alphabet (GOOG) recently jumping in with its own smart home devices, and Apple (AAPL) seemingly falling slightly behind the two.
Since introducing its connected home device powered by Alexa about two years ago, Amazon has steadily been building out the Echo's ecosystem. In September, for example, the e-commerce giant introduced a new generation of Echo Dot devices. And earlier this month, Amazon unveiled Amazon Music Unlimited with a big discount for Echo device owners. The music streaming service is priced at just $3.99 a month for Echo owners.
Google recently rolled out its own family of hardware products and software applications, including home connectivity device Google Home, voice activation services Google Assistant, GoogleWifi router and Chromecast Ultra, among others.
Amazon and Google will find themselves competing head-to-head with many of their products: Google Home vs. Echo, and Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick, for example.
Google, Amazon and Apple are all working to build a plethora of home connectivity products in an effort to establish their own home operating systems, said Needham analyst Kerry Rice.
Amazon may have gotten a head start as the e-commerce company has already started to gain traction with its Echo products. But Google is hoping to flex its muscles in artificial intelligence and machine learning, areas where the search giant has been investing heavily in.
Amazon's home connectivity products have been more interactive, but Google entered the smart home segment earlier with its $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs, which makes a wide range of home automation products including thermostats and smoke detectors. Nest subsequently purchased security camera start-up Dropcam for $555 million.
"I don't think the market has moved [all that] much. Google can gain ground and can be competitive," Rice said, noting that because the smart home industry is still so nascent, current market shares are unlikely to matter in the long run. "I think everyone is trying to figure it out," he added.
At the same time, moves by Amazon and Google have made some wonder if Apple is falling behind, and whether it needs to make some kind of dramatic move. The tech giant was somewhat slow to roll out its HomeKit services for controlling devices such as lights and door locks via an iOS app, but finally introduced its Home app in the recently-released iOS 10. Apple has also partnered with companies such as Honeywell (HON) to build out its smart home footprint.
Still, such efforts are unlikely to move the needle financially for the tech behemoths in the short term, said Rice, while acknowledging that they do make strategic sense.
Morningstar analyst RJ Hottovy agreed. Even for Amazon, home connectivity hasn't started to make a real financial impact just yet, Hottovy explained, but noted that Alexa's voice recognition and activation technology could have significant implications for tapping into other areas beyond the home, such as cars. And for its part, Amazon has also been partnering with digital home tech providers such as Philips (PHG) and General Electric (GE) .
As the connected home landscape continues to evolve, the main players are also continuously re-thinking their strategies.
For example, Google's increased focus on hardware and software represents a departure from its previous strategy of relying on original equipment manufacturers to extend its Android and Chrome ecosystems, wrote UBS analyst Eric Sherian in a note in early October. By developing its own products and applications, Google is gearing up to compete more directly with Apple and Amazon for the home.
Meanwhile, Samsung has been seeking to differentiate itself by developing a hub allows users to control and monitor all of their smart home appliances on a single platform. Samsung got this product when it purchased startup SmartThings in 2014.
"Samsung brings an aspect that none of the other players bring," ABI's Collins said, referring to the South Korean conglomerate's long history of providing connectivity services to a wide range of consumer electronics.
At the same time, there are plenty of ways for players to ride the smart home wave beyond building physical devices, creating hubs to control products and providing voice-controlled interfaces.
For instance, home security players such as ADT (ADT) and privately held Vivint, in addition to cable providers including Comcast (CMCSA) through its Xfinity Home offerings, have been layering smart home features on top of their respective services. Pure-play smart home services such as like Alarm.com Holdings (ALRM) , iControl Networks and Control4 (CTRL) have also started to pop up. And industrial giants like Honeywell are also looking to enter the market.
"For a long time, I viewed the Xbox as the Trojan horse into the house and wifi," he said, adding that users can use game consoles as a source of WiFi, and then subsequently build on the platform with services and create a network with multiple devices.
As a result of all this competition and potential competition, the battle for the smart home still appears to be very much up for grabs.