Amazon is working on “a premium Echo-like speaker” with a touchscreen display measuring roughly seven inches, according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
The report says the new Echo speaker will work with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant — much like the current Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap speakers — but that the new 7-inch touchscreen could be used for quicker access to personal info, like weather forecasts and calendar appointments.
It all sounds like a fusion of the Echo and the popular Fire tablets the ecommerce giant sells today. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to hear that the new device will reportedly use an “optimised version” of Fire OS, Amazon’s operating system for those tablets.
Amazon released a software update that brought Alexa to newer Fire tablets in late October, though it’s not yet clear if interacting with Alexa on this new speaker will work in a similar fashion.
Bloomberg says the device will “tilt upwards” — which’d theoretically make it easier to touch on, say, a counter or nightstand — and that it will use higher quality speakers than the current Echo, which is often criticised for its lacking audio quality (relative to other $180 speakers, at least).
The report says this new device will cost more than the top-end Echo, though. It’s said to be announced in the first quarter of 2017.
The report comes just a few weeks after Google released its own Echo competitor, the Google Home. Earlier this year, both The Information and Bloomberg reported that Apple is working on an Echo-esque smart home device as well. The Echo itself has been one of Amazon’s few runaway hits in the hardware business.
All of this suggests that the digital assistant race isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Though we’ve found the actual smarts of these AI helpers to be lacking, it seems clear that the major players in tech are pinning much of their hopes to them, and the Internet of Things, for the future.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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