Nobody, including e-commerce giant Amazon and its often eccentric Lab126 engineers and developers, expected the Echo smart speaker to catch on. Certainly not as fast as it did, and on such a large scale that it reportedly sold over 5 million units since 2014, prompting several low-cost spin-offs, and let’s face it, a Google-made copycat.
Without a doubt, the voice-controlled home automation hub owes much of its mainstream commercial success to the built-in Alexa personal assistant, which is now also available as standard on an all-new Fire TV Stick, select Fire tablets, and third-party TCL Xess “kitchen accessory.”
It should come as no surprise therefore that Amazon wants to further boost Alexa’s reach, especially to fend off Google Assistant and Siri’s imminent expansion, with a “premium Echo-like speaker with a screen” rumored for an announcement “as soon as the first quarter of 2017.”
Wait, isn’t an “Echo-like” speaker with a “touchscreen measuring about seven inches” basically a tablet? It sure sounds that way, particularly if it’s to run an “optimized version of Fire OS”, aka Amazon’s homebrewed Android fork.
The main difference between this upcoming screen-sporting “speaker” and current 7, 8 or 10-inch Fires will probably be the former’s support for “high-quality audio at all volume levels”, and of course, a resulting price tag significantly surpassing the standard Echo’s $180 MSRP. Sounds like a slightly harder sell, but we’re definitely intrigued.