Amazon on Tuesday rolled out yet another version of the Echo – this time sporting a screen that allows users to make and take video calls.
The Echo Show, as it’s called, signals that Amazon is not only pushing ahead with its goal of ruling the home, but it is also taking a major shot at a messaging platform. The Echo Show looks to complement – or even supplant – the phone or personal computer when it comes to real-time communication.
It also illustrates how deeply Amazon and other companies want to embed themselves in consumers’ lives, with technology that almost fades into the background of our homes.
(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
The calls work just about as you might expect, using a front-facing camera. There’s also a “drop-in” mode on the Echo Show, which automatically will accept a video call after 10 seconds.
That could feel invasive to some. But Amazon’s ads indicate that only people of your choosing can use the feature – close friends and family, for instance. Recipients also can decline a drop-in or make it audio-only, if they respond in that 10-second window.
The 7-inch screen also serves other purposes. Consumers will be able to watch short videos from YouTube and Amazon on the screen, in addition to movie trailers. If you call up tunes from the company’s Prime Music service, the lyrics to songs will scroll by as it plays. The addition of a screen also adds to the smart home functions already available on the Echo with users being able to use the Echo Show to peek in on their home security cameras or baby monitors.
The screen also could make certain apps easier to use, by displaying visual menus rather than having Alexa rattle off a string of options.
Amazon also will let people place video calls through the Alexa app and Echo users will be able to leave voicemail – effectively sneaking a new Amazon messaging platform onto the Echo, smartphones and tablets.
Home hubs give companies access to a lot of user data, by essentially running the lives of their customers – something that’s appealing to companies and perhaps alarming to the privacy-conscious. And the battle in the home hub space is becoming very fierce. Google and Amazon products are already on the market, and a Microsoft home hub was announced last week, as these tech giants vie to become the company that consumers turn to for advice and information at every point in the day.
Apple is also expected to get in on the market, with analysts speculating the announcement of a Siri-powered home hub device, which also may have a screen, as early as next month.
The Show costs $229 and is expected to ship on June 28.