Lenovo Announces Its Own Smart Speaker, But with a Few Twists

Posted on August 31, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Smart Home with 7 Comments

Lenovo Announces Its Own Smart Speaker, But with a Few Twists

Lenovo today announced its first smart speaker, the Home Assistant. Based on Amazon’s Alexa technology, the Home Assistant is sold as an accessory for a Lenovo family of tablets, which differentiates it in an interesting way from other smart speakers.

So let me just get the first wrinkle out of the way. Yes, Lenovo, one of the biggest PC makers in the world, has chosen Amazon’s personal digital assistant technology over Microsoft’s Cortana. And when I first heard about this a week ago, I found that to be somewhat alarming. But since then, Microsoft and Amazon have announced a digital personal assistant partnership, so I’m less concerned by this decision.

But Lenovo’s choice of Alexa isn’t the only interesting twist here. As it turns out, Home Assistant isn’t a standalone smart speaker like all of its competition. Instead, the device is sold as an accessory for the firm’s family-focused Tab 4 tablets, which includes the Tab 4 8, Tab 4 8 Plus, Tab 4 10, and Tab 4 10 Plus.

This has some interesting ramifications.

First, and most obviously, it means that the Home Assistant will always have a screen, unlike most smart speakers. It looks like the tablet docks right to the side of the speaker, so you get a nice heads-up view, and I assume you can view search results, recipe steps, and other information right on the screen while you use the two together.

Second, this makes a Lenovo Tab 4 tablet a bit more valuable too. Equipped together via the Home Assistant Pack, you get a Home Assistant app, a three-watt speaker, and far-field voice detection with two mics added to the speaker for a reasonable cost of just $69.99.

I sort of assume that Lenovo will introduce a standalone smart speaker at some time, too. But by making this a kit that requires a tablet, Lenovo can quell any worries over in Redmond while expanding its own ecosystem of products in a way that will benefit its own customers. Could be a win-win.


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Comments (7)

7 responses to “Lenovo Announces Its Own Smart Speaker, But with a Few Twists”

  1. Mcgillivray

    I don't see... How is this different - than on my Mac where I can just speak to Siri and have her do what I ask?

    I get the other speakers coming out - put them where you don't have a computer - but how is this speaker beneficial - it just sounds like you could just speak to Cortana and get the same results with a regular speaker attached?

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to Mcgillivray:

      I think that the main benefits are that it is always on, it's always listening and it can hear you from across the room. It can also project enough sound to adequately fill a room. Those minor things actually are the difference between deciding to use it, or not use it. Despite wanting to, I never use Cortana on my PC because Googling is basically the same amount of effort, and more likely to get me what I want faster.

  2. Boris Zakharin

    But you can connect a "dumb" speaker/microphone to any device with a microphone jack (or Bluetooth!) and just use Cortana. What's the point?

  3. madthinus

    Alexa was everywhere at CES in 2017 and that trend is not slowing. Some wins for Google along the way, but thus far, nothing for Cortana. You should be alarmed.

  4. maethorechannen

    Lenovo can quell any worries over in Redmond

    Aren't the Tab 4s Android tablets? If so, what did it have to do with Redmond?

  5. Jorge Garcia

    Most people I know have a small TV in their kitchen and/or dining room (breakfast nook). I continue to say that this smaller display is the IDEAL one for building-in Google Home or Alexa technology.

  6. Jorge Garcia

    The symmetry freak in me wants two of these speakers bracketing the tablet.