Amazon Developing Echo Speaker With 7-Inch Touchscreen to 'Fend Off Competition' From Apple and Google

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Amazon's next iteration of the Echo speaker will be a "premium" model that includes a touchscreen measuring around seven inches, marking "a major departure" from the tall, cylindrical design of the Echo currently on sale. The company is said to be upgrading Echo for two reasons: to capitalize on the device's success, and as early preparation to "fend off competition" from Google Home and Apple's rumored entry into the smart home speaker market (via Bloomberg).

The logic behind adding a touchscreen to Echo is reasoned as a way "to make it easier to access content," like the weather and upcoming calendar events. Currently, Echo is a voice-activated device with limited volume and mute buttons on its topside. While the exact design of the speaker wasn't pinned down, people familiar with the plans said it will be larger and "tilt upwards" so users can read the screen when the Echo sits on a kitchen counter or desk.

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The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a product that has yet to be announced.

Amazon’s planned expansion of the Alexa-powered line coincides with growing competition from Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home speaker and Apple Inc.’s interest in building a home device using its Siri digital assistant.

The upgraded Echo is also believed to get a major boost to speaker quality and "sound much better" than the current line of Echo speakers. One version of Amazon's prototype of the upcoming device placed the speakers below and behind the screen, which is said to help the new generation of Echo "play high-quality audio at all volume levels." The current Echo was designed to sound better at only moderate volume levels.

In total, Amazon is now selling the Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and Amazon Echo, for $50, $130, and $180 respectively, and the upcoming speaker -- believed to be announced as early as Q1 2017 -- is expected to be the most expensive Echo in the line.

On Apple's side, the most recent reports placed the Cupertino company's Siri-fueled, Echo-like device in the prototype phase. The Siri speaker is expected to include the usual support for music playback, search queries, and dictation, with additional potential for new technology, like facial recognition.

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47 months ago

"Fending off competition" sounds like a euphemism for "these aren't really as popular as the tech press thinks".

I don't know, I am pretty surprised how many of my non techy friends have these. Alexa has become really mainstream. I don't know anyone with Google home, and I certainly wouldn't be interested in a Siri device unless she becomes much more intelligent.

My $39 Echo Dot has been a lot of fun to have. At the very least, shes a fantastic alarm clock and weather bot. Her voice recognition is much better than my iPhone 7+, and can hear me from much farther away.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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47 months ago
"Fending off competition" sounds like a euphemism for "these aren't really as popular as the tech press thinks".
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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47 months ago

I don't know, I am pretty surprised how many of my non techy friends have these. Alexa has become really mainstream. I don't know anyone with Google home, and I certainly wouldn't be interested in a Siri device unless she becomes much more intelligent.

That's an interesting thought. I like Siri, and I like my iPhone. But would I pay for Siri? No. No I would not pay for Siri.

It would be nice to have an Alexa type device made by Apple, but like you said, Siri is going to have to get a whole lot better before it becomes a successful standalone product.

My ideal device would be one with Siri that lives plugged in on the wall. It can listen to a whole room of audio and respond, it's a WiFi and BT range extender for HomeKit relays, and it covers the room with wireless power for charging mobile devices. It would also have a few sensors that could be used as triggers for HomeKit, such as temperature, humidity, light level, and motion. The tricky part is getting the price down. The Apple TV is a good comparison here. They might be able to create such a device in the $99-199 range. The problem is a typical home would probably need at least three of them, if not more. An apartment could get away with one or two.

Perhaps Apple is getting out of the AirPort business because they want to start selling something like this instead and AirPort is just a feature. But looking at the pricetag on an AirPort and you can see the problem. Maybe it's more like a basestation and the smaller sensors with microphones positioned around the house are cheaper and relay Siri commands back to the main hub for processing?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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47 months ago
Sounds like a desktop computer?
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47 months ago
Competition from Apple?? WHAT COMPETITION???????? HANDICAPED SIRI???????
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47 months ago
I'm not convinced that there is a need for yet another so-so quality speaker / stand alone internet query device - because isn't that what an iPhone / Android phone is?

Everyone in my family carries their own device, and we have both a Bose speaker and a multi-room home stereo for listening to music, so what's the point of having yet another device sitting out on the counter?
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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