Google is rumored to be launching its very own smart speaker with a built-in screen, according to a new report from the Nikkei Asian Review. The report cites sources within the supply chain, and claims that Google is preparing this product for the holiday season, with “targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen.”
The smart speaker would reportedly be positioned as a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo Show and to similar products from the Chinese retail conglomerate Alibaba — two of Google’s greatest rivals in the artificial intelligence and data-mining industries.
Until now, Google has depended on partners such as Lenovo Group, JBL, LG Electronics, and Sony to launch products using its Smart Display platform, which gives smart speakers the ability to include displays.
But if the search giant does indeed roll out its own Echo Show competitor, it would help the company round out its Google Home range of smart speakers, all of which use the company’s voice-controlled artificial intelligence Google Assistant.
As it stands, Google offers three of its own-branded smart speakers without displays: Google Home, Home Mini, and the high-end Home Max, mostly competing with Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus, respectively.
But Amazon has also cemented itself as a leader of producing smart speaker products that include a display, which provide additional information in response to the queries made using voice commands. The company’s Echo Spot and Echo Show each have an embedded screen that can display things like videos, photos, and images that could be helpful when searching for information using your voice.
After debuting, the Echo Show was a major hit among most major tech reviewers — until Google removed the YouTube app from the platform in September 2017. Variety reported in October 2017 that publicly available data suggested Echo Show sales sharply declined after Google decided to remove YouTube from the platform.
The reason YouTube has been so important to these “smart display” devices is that they’re often marketed as small kitchen appliances. Theoretically, a user should be able to ask the smart speaker to “show me pie recipes,” and the device would then display a video walking the user through the process of baking a pie.
The issue is that most of the most popular “how-to” videos on the internet currently live on YouTube, which is owned by Google. So without those types of tutorials, especially cooking tutorial videos, products like the Echo Show are much less useful. In short, YouTube is the killer app for these devices, and in the long run, this gives Google a huge upper-hand.
But even though Google has launched several Smart Display devices in the past year, they have all failed to grab the attention that Amazon Echo products have. Some of that has to do with how Amazon markets these products on its homepage (versus Google’s products being banished to the forgettable store.google.com domain). And some of it is simply pricing and usability issues.
If the rumors are true, though, we suspect that Google will be pushing hard this holiday season to change the narrative around these devices. After all, it owns the keys to the most coveted smart display app. Now it just needs its own smart display speaker to make use of it.