In brief: Amazon is looking to put its successful Alexa digital assistant in as many places as possible, which is why the company may be looking to expand the Echo family of devices with something that could act as a command center for the smart home.
There is no shortage of Echo devices on the market, with smart speakers in particular maintaining a significant lead over alternatives from Google, Apple, Sonos, and Harman Kardon. Based on latest reports, around 70 percent of that market belongs to Amazon, which has been accused by competitors of selling its devices below cost to achieve a dominant position.
That hasn't stopped the retail giant from exploring more ideas for Alexa connected devices. According to a Bloomberg report, Amazon is working on a new, wall-mounted Echo device that is designed to act as a smart home hub and entertainment center.
Amazon's Lab126 hardware division is reportedly the one tasked with the development of the new device, which is said to feature a large touchscreen, a microphone array, and a camera. Alexa will be central to the experience and will be able to bring up things like calendar events, weather, and other information on the screen.
Additionally, users will be able to use it for video conferencing, playing music and video, and controlling lights, thermostats, or smart locks. And with an ever-evolving Alexa with real-time translation capabilities, it would be an attractive package.
If this sounds a lot like the Echo Show, it's because the two devices are said to be quite similar in size and features. Amazon is thinking about creating two variants equipped with a 10-inch and 13-inch screen, respectively. Echo Show devices currently come in three sizes, equipped with displays ranging from 5 inches to 10 inches, and are designed to sit on a tabletop or a counter, with companies like Mount Genie offering wall mounts for those who prefer that option.
Pricing could be around $200 to $250, and Amazon could reveal the device by the end of this year or in early 2022.
This would add to the number of Alexa-powered devices the company offers, which range from wireless earbuds to smart glasses, wall clocks, and high-end smart speakers. The company has been trying to develop a bigger ecosystem for a while now, and its ambitions include using that to enable a "Sidewalk" network. Its success will largely depend also on how much trust it can build with the necessary privacy and security protections.