Get ready for some more line blurring between different tech product categories, according to a very credible new Wall Street Journal report based on word from “people familiar with the matter.” The “matter” being the possibility of voice calling functionality enhancing the capabilities and versatility of the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers by the end of the year.
While definitely a logical next step for devices already supporting everything from home automation controls to web searches ordered by voice, music streaming, Uber ride requests, reminders and timers, this prospective “skill” addition feels problematic in a number of ways.
For one thing, it could render archaic landlines completely obsolete, which AT&T or Verizon may not appreciate so very much. A VoIP-enabled Echo or Google Home would probably “take attention away from smartphones” as well, and let’s not forget Amazon’s track record in that particular market.
Most importantly, there’s the sensitive question of user privacy, although people’s conversations would likely not be recorded themselves, but rather the meaningless metadata. You know, the numbers you dial, call duration, stuff like that.
Still, it remains to be seen how such a divisive “upgrade” might be received, and whether Google and Amazon aim to merely integrate existing services like Skype, or develop the calling tool themselves from scratch. Other details are also unclear, like call forwarding, phone number allocation and possible contact synchronization, but the general intentions are real and undeniable.