What will Echo Show’s screen mean for the digital assistant device market?

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If Amazon had introduced the Echo Show before its original Echo speaker device, it might not have been as successful. It might have been seen as redundant or unnecessary — after all, people already have PCs and tablets and smartphones.

But now that it’s here, I suspect it’s going to be very successful, especially given Amazon’s installed base and aggressive pricing. If so, Google will probably feel compelled to release a version of Home with a screen. And third-party OEMs will create devices with screens using Cortana.

It will be interesting to see whether and how much the Show changes the direction of the digital assistant market. In one sense, it doesn’t change anything; digital assistants are already on PCs, smartphones and tablets. These are assistant-enabled touchscreen devices.

However, it does potentially change what might be called the “kitchen experience.” Because that’s where most of these Echo Show devices will probably live. The current “headless” (screen-free) experience we’ve all been discussing might be minimized or live side-by-side with the screen-present experience.

With the Show, there will be various options for developers and publishers to create “skills.” And this will create a dilemma. Do you simply use a responsive website; do you adapt your smartphone and tablet apps; do you use a voice-only “skill,” or do you develop a new experience from scratch with both conversational and screen-based interaction in mind?

Business and ad models are also more established and obvious with a screen: display, search, video and e-commerce.

As with all new markets and technologies, we’ll have to see. The appeal and pricing of the hardware will largely drive the market. The Echo succeeded because it was an attractive and attractively priced bluetooth speaker with Alexa built in. The Echo Dot has taken off because it’s dirt-cheap.

There’s also another interesting wrinkle here. For roughly a year, we’ve been hearing rumors that Apple is developing a Siri-powered, stand-alone device. The Echo Show gives Apple an opening to create something around an iPad, which might help revive the tablet market.




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