Matter is led by the Connectivity Standards Alliance, formerly the Zigbee Alliance. Google, Apple, and Amazon are a big part of it, but they aren’t the driving forces. This recent article on The Verge talks about it.
The Matter launch has been pushed back a few times, and the last delay was attributed to CSA gaining more members than they anticipated and deciding to take more time to onboard and review. It’s slightly annoying, but probably better than releasing a spec and then immediately updating it (potentially breaking devices already on the market).
Thread is designed for low power consumption and may even be better than Zigbee. Of course, WiFi-based Matter devices will still consume more power, but they’re not intended for battery operation.
Amazon, Apple, and Google started including Thread radios in some of their devices about a year ago, so that they’ll be able to serve as border routers when battery-powered end-point devices become widely available. Here’s a list of existing Thread devices, and a StaceyonIOT article about Thread.
A Thread controller will still be required to communicate with Thread devices. The big difference is that devices won’t be “owned” by that single controller; if you install a Thread lightswitch, then you can connect it to your Echo speaker, Nest Hub, and Apple TV. They’ll all directly control it, and they’ll all get updates when other devices control it.
If someone sells a Thread USB controller, then openHAB would be able to serve as a border router. Alternatively, openHAC can just communicate with a border router to send commands to Thread devices. This would already be possible with the Amazon Echo Control Binding, but I’m hopeful that there will be a direct Matter-based solution. No idea if it’ll actually happen, though.
Matter probably won’t be everything that’s promised, but wide industry support (400+ members) gives it a decent shot at actually making home-automation devices more accessible and consumer-friendly. For this reason alone, I’m choosing to be optimistic. I’ll save my cynicism for when it actually launches.