[Update: Lenovo has stepped forward with its own smart display, fittingly called the Lenovo Smart Display. It will be available in two size options; 8 inches and 10 inches. It, too, features Google Assistant, and can control smart home products through its display. All in all, it looks like a sleek Echo Show rival.]
In the world of smart speakers, it’s impossible for either of the big players, Amazon or Google, to do literally anything without the other releasing a competing product.
But in an unlikely twist, Google will be relying on third-parties such as JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony to produce these ‘smart displays’ rather than producing them itself. In contrast, Amazon appears to only want to let third-parties produce smart speakers, while keeping the screen-equipped devices as a first-party exclusive.
The JBL Link View is the first such smart speaker that's been announced. It's got an 8-inch HD display and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera affixed on a speaker that's very similar in appearance to the JBL Playlist.
Google’s smart display functionality otherwise sounds very similar to what’s offered by the Amazon Echo Show, including support for voice calling, and integration with Google Photos. It will also naturally support YouTube, which has been a thorn in Amazon’s side in recent months.
Oh and Google's blog post also seems to specifically promise that the new smart displays will be able to teach you how to cut a pineapple, which we can totally get behind.
You can check out some of the smart display’s functionality in the short video clip below.
Keeping up with the Joneses
The news shows the competition to become the dominant voice assistant is showing no signs of cooling off. Amazon appears to have the lead in terms of the amount of smart speakers sold, but subjectively it seems that Google seems to be doing better at getting other manufacturers on board, resulting in a wider range of Google Assistant-equipped speakers.
But it’s not just speakers that are providing the battleground for this assistant war. Recently headphones have also started being equipped with either voice assistant, and televisions are also following suit.
The ace up Google’s sleeve is of course Android, which has come equipped with Google Assistant as of Android 7.1 Nougat.
If nothing else, the competition between Amazon and Google has shown the amazing power that fierce competition can have in a market. Both are desperate for their assistant to reign supreme, and in the end it's all of us that are benefiting from their rapid development.
That said, if everyone could just slow down with the new products for a couple of months that would be great. It’s starting to get a little exhausting.
- New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2018