Update May 9: AFTV News is reporting that the device will be called the Amazon Echo Show, will be available today for pre-order and start shipping on June 28, 2017. It will be priced at $229 in the US, £219 in the UK and €239 in Germany. The UK and Germany release dates may be later.
The new device, which is expected to be announced as early as Tuesday, will also allow users to make internet-based telephone calls, according to these people, setting the speaker up to be core to a home’s communications.
Calling and Intercom Features Are The Story
This might be an example of burying the lede and citing the most important aspect of the story as a detail. Yes, a voice assistant with a 7-inch touchscreen is news. However, internet-based calling from these devices may be the bigger driver for market adoption. As Voicebot has commented previously, the Amazon Echo and Google Home have plenty of useful features, but they seem to lack a single killer app. A calling feature to other voice assistants or internet-connected devices could be a big consumer draw. A intercom like the old Nextel-phones would be even better.
Internet calling could also be the key feature that continues to differentiate the Echo it from peers. Today, Echo has an advantage because it can simply do more things. Google and Microsoft are playing catch-up to match some portion of Alexa’s more than 10,000 skills. Microsoft had hoped that the Cortana-enabled Invoke from Harman Kardon could differentiate in part based on Skype calling features. It appears that Amazon may beat them to market once again. The Invoke won’t ship until the fall. When it comes out, Invoke’s Skype calling may just be fighting for feature parity.
A few key questions remain. Will the calling feature is reserved for the touchscreen Echo or if it will be rolled out to the voice-only devices as well? If it does, when will the voice-only devices have access to the feature? When will skills that work seamlessly across voice and visual modalities be available?
Ready to Ship
The Wall Street Journal also is reporting that the device will exceed $200 and may ship very soon (see note above from AFTV News, $229 price point and ship on June 28 in the US).
The new Echo, which has been in beta testing with employees for a few months, could start shipping to consumers as early as next month.
We have mentioned before that Google, Apple and Microsoft have many advantages in building their voice assistant user base due to their large installed base for smartphones and productivity applications. Amazon’s key advantage is time. The announcement of its new device and landmark feature is all about pressing that advantage.