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Apple Exec Drops Hints About Possible Amazon Echo Competitor

May 8, 2017, 2:55 PM UTC

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller dropped some hints recently about a possible Amazon Echo competitor.

Speaking to technology news site Gadgets 360 in an interview published over the weekend, Schiller hinted that customers might benefit from having a screen in addition to voice assistance with their smart home hubs. He said that while voice can be exceedingly helpful in asking for directions or changing songs in a playlist, a screen could provide an added layer of context device owners can use to their advantage.

“If I’m looking for directions and I’m using Maps,” Schiller said in the interview, “Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that’s really convenient. But it’s even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I’m going to do.”

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Schiller’s comments came in response to a question about smart home hubs Amazon Echo (AMZN) and Google Home (GOOGL). Schiller said that he wouldn’t comment on either device specifically because, as he explained, his mother taught him that “if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.”

The Apple (AAPL) executive’s harsh words come amid speculation that the company is planning its own smart home hub. Like the Echo and Home, Apple’s option would be powered in part by voice commands. However, Apple’s device would be powered by its own virtual personal assistant Siri, according to reports. Like its competitors, Apple’s device would support third-party apps and let users control smart home products, reports say.

Details are rather slim on the device. But last week, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that his sources suggest Apple’s device could come with seven built-in speakers and one sub-woofer. Kuo also said that it would be about as powerful as last year’s iPhone 6s and cost more than the $180 Amazon Echo. Perhaps most importantly, Kuo said that there is a greater than 50% chance it’ll be unveiled at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next month in San Jose, Calif.

Schiller, of course, didn’t confirm Apple is working on a smart home hub. But his sharp comments about Google Home and Amazon Echo, and his discussion on one major feature they don’t have—a screen—could be hints that Apple is indeed working on a device and it could come with a display.

But Apple might not be alone.

Over the weekend, serial gadget leaker Evan Blass published an image what some have said could be a new Amazon Echo. Amazon hasn’t verified the image’s authenticity, but it appears to be a press rendering and shows a device—believed to be the next Amazon Echo—with a screen.

Amazon hasn’t commented on the image or its possible plans for an Echo follow-up.