Like Microsoft, Amazon.com came too late to the smartphone market. But unlike the software giant, Amazon has already found its Next Big Thing. And today, the online retailer unveiled its latest voice-activated, Alexa-powered appliance, the Echo Show. The differentiator? This one has a screen.
“Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things,” Amazon explains. “Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”
Now available for pre-order, the Echo Show retails for $230 and will begin shipping on June 28, 2017. It is the latest in a growing family of Alexa-powered personal digital assistant appliances, but unlike previous Echos, this one has a screen.
That screen ties together various Amazon experiences, some of which will likely be quite unfamiliar to most customers. That is, while many are aware that Amazon makes voice-activated Echo appliances, fewer are probably aware that the firm has brought those capabilities to smartphones via an Alexa app. And even fewer probably know that Amazon already has powerful, cloud-based audio and video calling services. Which are now integrated into the Echo Show.
On that note, this new appliance can make voice and video calls, with the important caveat that it only works with other Alexa-powered products. So your friends and family will need an Echo device or the Alexa app on their phones.
This is an important capability, and it better positions the Alexa platform, already the digital assistant market leader, to compete with rivals such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. Each of those companies already offers popular voice and video calling services: Facetime, Hangouts, and Skype, respectively.
It’s a smart move for a company that, so far, has dominated the nascent market for personal digital assistants. And by making Alexa, and Echo devices, more of a central component of people’s homes, the retailer is helping to ensure that the fast-moving train of third-party Alexa “skills”—which improve on the Echo devices’ capabilities—continues.
Following Microsoft as I do, I am, I think, understandably concerned that the software giant is about to miss another major personal technology market. Microsoft’s Cortana is well-designed and is improving all the time. But the firm is late to the appliance game—the first such device, the Harmon Kardon Invoke, was just announced, three years after Echo—and it will have trouble making inroads in the home, and on smartphones, two markets in which it does not compete effectively.
So we’ll see what happens. But this new Echo device looks very interesting. And should help drive continued success for the platform that already controls this market.