Google to counter Amazon’s Echo Show with smart screen device, sources say

Google is rumored to have a new smart device in the works, TechCrunch reports. The tabletop smart screen for the home will serve as the competitor for Amazon’s Echo Show, which has been on the market since June 2017. If true, such a device would keep Google in the smart home market race with Amazon and Facebook.

The rumors follow Amazon’s announcement Thursday of a cast of new Echos. The company now has a total of seven Amazon Echo devices to choose from. With Amazon covering all the bases in the home, and essentially ruling the current smart home market, it’s about time Google expanded from Google Home into other smart home products.

TechCrunch gathered their information from two confirmed sources, one of which received the intel from a current Google employee. TechCrunch learned that the new Google smart screen has been dubbed “Manhattan” internally. It is unclear if this will be the final launch name for the device.

As far as size goes, it appears to be measuring up with the Echo Show, with a screen around 7 inches. One source told TechCrunch that Google previously played around with much larger sizes for the smart home screen, some designs as large as television screens. For now, the plans seem to have honed in on the smaller, tabletop screen.

Manhattan will offer Youtube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling. It will also be able to act as your home’s “smart hub,” connecting with other smart home devices like Nest.

The original launch date was planned for mid-year 2018. Sources report that there is “internal pressure” to get the launch date moved up after Amazon’s Echo Show. With October and the end of 2017 just around the corner, it’s probably safe to assume that the release date will remain some time in 2018. As TechCrunch points out, “establishing smart hub partnerships” and “exploring the possibility of service partnerships with Best Buy Geek Squad and Enjoy for home installation,” the many moving parts surrounding the launch for Manhattan seem to ensure a 2018 launch.

Sources told TechCrunch that Manhattan will run on a version of Android. This will ensure flexibility for third-parties to build apps for it.

What remains unclear is the final price for such a device or even the final look. As the Amazon Echo Show retails for $230, it’s possible Google’s competing device will come out at a similar price range.

Earlier this week Google removed Youtube from Amazon’s Echo Show without any warnings for current Echo Show owners. Critics claim the removal was strategic, as Youtube will be available on Manhattan. With Youtube capabilities on offer, Manhattan owners would be able to stream music videos from Youtube or watch live cable channels on Youtube TV.

It’s too soon to tell if this would give Manhattan enough of an edge to topple the Echo Show. Many disagree with such a prospect. Fast Company has said that once the mystery device finally arrives on the market, assuming it will, “Amazon will already be a step ahead with its second-generation Echo speaker and new devices like the Echo Spot.”

With a biting finish, Fast Company challenges Google’s ingenuity, claiming that Google should stop “lifting ideas” from Amazon and start bringing to market fresh perspectives of their own making.

Amazon’s Revenue Falls Short of Fourth Quarter Estimates

Amazon’s fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday beat analyst expectations, but its revenue fell short of estimates. Holiday season sales did not bring in expected revenue, as Reuters estimated the company would earn $44.68 billion in revenue, while it actually earned $43.74 billion.

Amazon has invested heavily in infrastructure and projects to meet soaring consumer demands as online shopping continues to grow. Amazon’s growth has negatively affected traditional retailers, as brick-and-mortar stores continue to close by the hundreds.

Morningstar senior retail analyst RJ Hottovy explained on CNBC’s “Closing Bell”, “Part of the revenue miss might be the ongoing shift to being a third party market place. When that happens, you’re not getting as much of the revenue in there.”

Amazon chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky also noted that the company offers promotions to bring prices down, a “cost of doing business.” Active sellers that fulfill delivery through Amazon grew 70% in the last year, according to Olsavsky.

On a conference call, the company revealed that Amazon’s biggest investments were the new fulfillment centers built in the second half of 2016 (23 in total), original content available on its video streaming service, its Alexa and Echo devices, as well as expansion into India.

CEO Jeff Bezos focused on the company’s Prime membership program, noting “tens of millions of new paid members joined the program in just this past year.”

Bezos has bundled several more services into the membership, he said in a statement. “Prime members can now choose from over 50 million items with free two-day shipping– up 73% since 2015. Prime Video is now available in more than 200 countries and territories. Prime Now added 18 cities, which means millions of more members now get one and two-hour delivery.”

The company’s cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services, has seen shares rise by almost 10% over the past three months. Still, the platforms have had 7 price cuts in December alone.

According to Olsavsky, “That’s going to be a constant in this business. We’ve been pretty clear that this business is about creating new functionality for customers, giving price cuts, and then working on the operating efficiencies.”