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article imageAmazon's new Echo smart speaker features a seven-inch touchscreen

By James Walker     Nov 29, 2016 in Technology
Amazon is planning an upgraded version of its popular Echo smart speaker with a large touchscreen display, according to a report today. The new device will be physically bigger and include higher-quality speakers but retain the same functionality.
The more advanced Echo is being built as a response to the unexpected success of the original. Amazon also wants to secure its position as market leader against the likes of Apple and Google, Bloomberg reported today.
The current Echo is based on a cylindrical design that's meant to be unobtrusive and easy to position in any room. At first glance, it resembles a regular speaker, primarily relying on voice control to interact with its smart functionality.
The next-generation model will adopt a different form, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Bloomberg. It will be larger and tilt upwards at the top, angling a completely new seven-inch touchscreen towards where the user is standing. Improved speakers capable of producing more detailed audio will be integrated into the device, making the Echo more suitable as a sound system replacement.
The new Echo will run on an optimised version of Amazon's Fire OS. The company's Alexa digital assistant will still be the main way of interacting with the speaker. Alexa will retain its current capabilities, including basic news, weather, mail and calendar functionality alongside a rapidly growing ecosystem of third-party services.
It's currently unclear what the new touchscreen will be used for. One of Bloomberg's sources suggested it could act as a digital photo board while the Echo is idling, replacing the refrigerator door as a place to store reminders, images and important notes.
Smart home products are being viewed as the next frontier of consumer technology but have yet to take off in a major way. Hub products like the Echo are designed to link multiple devices together, becoming a single way to interact with everything in your home. The touchscreen could also help with this, allowing the Echo to manage other devices and expose functionality that’s too complex for voice commands alone.
The Echo has been one of the most successful smart home devices to date, becoming especially popular in the U.S. Its popularity has not yet been replicated by rival smart speakers and the device has gained mainstream attention. Amazon is about to be confronted by new competition though, including Google Home.
The updated Echo will help to reaffirm Amazon's market dominance and allow it to improve on the current model's hardware limitations. Amazon will unveil the device during the first quarter of 2017, according to Bloomberg's sources. Pricing is expected to be higher than the current Echo but may be subject to change.
More about Amazon, amazon echo, internet of things, IoT, Smart home
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