Google has already given its blessing for third-parties to make Assistant-powered smart speakers with displays, but the search giant has yet to venture into this territory itself. That might change later this year, with a new report from Nikkei claiming that Google plans to launch its own rival to Amazon’s screen-equipped Echo Show later this year.
As with all rumors sourced from the supply chain, it pays to be skeptical. But insiders speaking to Nikkei say the company is preparing for a holiday blitz. “Google targets to ship some 3 million units for the first batch of the new model of smart speaker that comes with a screen,” one industry source told the Japanese publication. “It’s an aggressive plan.”
Smart speakers with displays (or “smart displays”) offer a number of obvious benefits. A screen makes it easy to tweak settings, look up information, follow recipes, or watch videos. They often work well in the kitchen, where hands-free screens are particularly useful. But despite these benefits, it’s not clear that the format can compete with tablets and laptops.
Google obviously thinks it’s a form factor worth experimenting with though, and in January introduced its Smart Display platform for exactly that purpose. JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony all signed up to make screen-equipped smart speakers and the first out the gates — Lenovo’s Smart Display — was a capable device. It was also a very Googly one, with slick integration with all of the company’s services, from Gmail to Calendar to YouTube. (The latter being something that’s only been available inconsistently on the Echo Show due to a corporate spat.) We could expect a similar experience if Google built its own smart display.
Google’s current smart speaker line-up includes the Google Home, budget Home Mini, and speaker-heavy Home Max. It’s a decent range, but not as expansive as Amazon’s, which has simile devices alongside the alarm clock-sized Echo Spot and larger Echo Show. We’ll hopefully find out if Google plans to go toe-to-toe with Amazon in these other categories before the end of the year.