Airpods as the next platform, part three

Posted on June 5, 2019. Filed under: Uncategorized |

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I think Airpods have a chance to be the next platform. There’s a lot of surface area at the application layer designing against this hardware edge, but I also have been thinking that it’s not just Airpods that are interesting, but rather the entire fabric of internet connected microphones that is permeating our space and society. It’s your Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Watch, the phone in your pocket that has the microphone on even though you don’t opt for it, the voice interface in your car, and your television, and if you squint you can see a world where there will be, if it hasn’t happened already, as many internet connected microphones as there are internet connected cameras. And if you think about the amount of value that’s been created on top of internet connected cameras, the voice and audio ecosystem is an incredibly compelling problem space.

So you might ask, what’s the most valuable position you could own in a world where there exists this dense fabric of internet connected microphones? I actually think the answer may be the identity layer. Not dissimilar from how Facebook began as an application and pushed down stack to a more infrastructural identity layer largely through Facebook auth, a similar opportunity exists in the voice ecosystem. Facebook auth made it so that you could show up at a website you’d never been to before, click a button, and get a personalized experience as a result. The same premise is going to be important in the voice ecosystem.

Currently, all the internet connected microphones we use contemplate a known user or set of users. You talk to YOUR watch, or YOUR airpods. Amazon Echo can already serve different results based on whether I or my wife is asking a question, but it’s still a known set of users. If you believe that voice is going to become an important, if not dominant way that we query the internet and our various services, it’s going to be necessary for me to be able to query my information and applications regardless of who owns the microphone with which I’m interacting (i.e the conference room mic in someone else’s office). That’s a non-trivial technical problem, and I’m guessing the implementation will require not just a voice ID, but multiple inputs (i.e. your voice AND the location of your phone, or a series of other unique/probabilistic identifiers). But it’s gonna matter.

The value of this identity layer is not lost on Apple and Amazon. Amazon already is distributing the Alexa OS via Samsung televisions, trying to spread out horizontally and attain this position. Google is doing the same, but seems less likely to win here without a novel/leading voice based hardware edge. And you ask, could a startup plausibly win the identity layer in this market. I think the answer is yes, although it would probably come in the form of a new hardware edge. But even if that doesn’t happen, the mere presence of an identity layer within the voice ecosystem is going to enable an entire class of applications that was not previously possible. Again, if you are building in the space, I’d love to talk and potentially invest (especially when you are ready to raise an A round):

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One Response to “Airpods as the next platform, part three”

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Keep the out-loud thinking on this topic coming!

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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