With Apple's better-late-than-never arrival into the smart speaker market this month, there's been lots of talk about the state of the smart assistant — and why, ultimately, all these companies are working so hard to get you talking to their technology.

From Siri to Alexa and Google Assistant to Bixby (yes, even Bixby), the virtual assistants are all soldiers in the tech world's latest battle for our attention. And what these artificially intelligent entities are really all about comes down to a single four-syllable word:

Ecosystem.

Whether you're Apple, Amazon, Google, or any of the less equipped companies fighting to get a foot into this arena, the virtual assistant is the latest and most promising way to get folks further entrenched in your ecosystem — and thus likely to keep using the associated products and services that benefit your bottom line.

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