How is it that there are no trumpets blaring, no alarms going and no stock prices falling from on high. That’s because Apple’s way of gathering all the media to its bosom when it launches something, is just not something that Amazon does when it introduces a product. This week it was the Echo Show.
As far as we are concerned the Echo Show is the replacement for the tablet. Remember that quaint little thing that you have up in your attic, gathering cobwebs which the kids will no longer use. Remember Steve Jobs saying, “The Tablet will turn out to be the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Well it wasn’t, it’s now dead. Well dead-ish.
Despite Alexa being irritating, lacking in genuine AI, and not as easy to manage as a smartphone, the Echo Show still takes voice control to a level which makes you want to buy into the eco-system. Billed simply as the first Echo device with a screen, it features a 7-inch touch screen and a camera. It’s like a smartphone, which you can put down on the table and talk to. Now Apple launched something very similar three weeks ago. We’ve already forgotten what it was called, the iHome or something? That’s right the HomePod. And why have we forgotten it? Because at $350 it does less than the $230 Echo Show. It has no screen and no camera. That’s right, it’s just a smart speaker. Now even that Amazon price needs to come down and we’re sure it will, but it added all the same smarts that Apple added with its HomePod- the array of microphones, the sound beamforming, a room sensing system. In the HomePod it was overkill, in the Echo Show it just happens to be there – in the price. The Show has eight microphones, comes with Bluetooth.
This is like another genre of device, but all it is, is a cheap in-house device where you can watch video, listen to music, check your security cameras, drop in on someone in another room (video call) and do the same to a remote Echo Show. This is just like Face Time or Skype, but on a new type of device, one that is always sitting around your home. Like we said this is the new tablet, but one you can talk to.
There is the promise of more and more apps, Look, an image recognition fashion app to see if your clothes work together for the fashion conscious, show me my calendar, show me the lyrics to the song that is playing, order an Uber, turn off the smart lightbulbs, turn the heating down. It can be used as a baby alarm (well two of them can), a device to watch music videos on (have to put the earphones in) while someone else is watching TV, display album covers, be a karaoke machine, book movie tickets just by speaking and play a trailer if you are not sure you want to see that movie, and let you read or listen to a book. Sure you can do all of these on a laptop, which is also private and personal and not always to be shared. This is much more like a tablet.
If Apple had launched this the media would have gone crazy and someone would have said, “This is the most important thing we have ever done,” but Amazon, refreshingly, doesn’t take itself quite so seriously.
And the more of these they sell, the more intelligent Alexa will have to become, and that will be a relief.