Amazon has finally debuted the latest version of its popular line of home automation devices, Echo, after months of speculation. Called the Echo Show, the new hardware sports a 7-inch touchscreen, a camera, a Dolby speaker, and eight microphones.
Amazon first (amzn) debuted the Echo in 2015 as an alternative to using smartphones, tablets, and computers at home. The device allows people to use their voice, and Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, to get answers to questions, turn on lights, order goods from Amazon.com, and request an Uber car for pickup.
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With the Echo Show, you ask Alexa to do the same things you would in the earlier version of Echo. However, Echo Show will respond with both audio and video. So the device could play YouTube videos or lyrics on-screen using Amazon's music streaming service. The Echo Show's screen can also double as a monitor the front door or a nursery using integrated cameras from doorbell monitoring company Ring or baby video camera Arlo.
Like past Echo devices, the Echo Show can connect to Pandora or Spotify accounts as well. This may be Amazon's most powerful speaker yet as those eight microphones should provide "room-filling" sound, according to the company.
Amazon is also debuting a new feature that uses Alexa to make voice phone calls to family and friends who also use Alexa on an Amazon device. Through the Alexa smartphone app, you can see your contacts who have Alexa and have enabled the calling and messaging feature. You can then tell your Echo, "Alexa, call Mom," to start a call, and converse using the Show instead of a phone. You can also tell Alexa to message your contacts. And if your contact has another Echo device with a camera, you'll be able to do video calling as well.
Amazon is in a land grab alongside fellow technology giants—Apple (“appl”), Google (“goog”), and Microsoft (“msft”)—to dominate the home speaker market. Google has the year-old Echo rival, Google Home, while Microsoft has been teasing its voice-activated speaker, Invoke, for later this year. Apple is also reportedly working on an Echo rival.
The company is taking a similar strategy to what it did with its line of e-readers under the Kindle brand, which is to launch a number of different devices at various price points, with some more powerful and feature-filled than others. Two weeks ago, Amazon debuted a new version of Echo for the fashionista crowd, called the Echo Look, which includes a camera but does not have a screen. The Echo Show appears to be the most feature rich version of Echo so far.
Because of its early bet on the Echo, Amazon is still in the lead in terms of market share for home speakers. The e-commerce giant has a 70% share of the emerging voice-controlled speaker market compared to 23.8% for Google, research firm eMarketer said on Monday.
The Echo Show will start shipping on June 28 with a price tag of $229.
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