Amazon's Alexa has a new face.
The e-commerce giant on Tuesday revealed its newest device, the Echo Show, its first smart speaker with a built-in touchscreen. The new device was announced just weeks after Amazon presented the Echo Look, its first Echo with a built-in camera.
While Echo devices have been all about using your voice so far, this new gadget should help the Echo and its voice assistant Alexa expand into many more areas that may have been too clunky or complicated for just spoken commands. For example, the Show's 7-inch touchscreen can be used for voice-assisted shopping, viewing videos, weather forecasts, music lyrics and photos, and checking baby-monitor and security-camera feeds.
The device, which comes in black or white, is priced at $230 -- buy two and you get a $100 discount. Preorders started Tuesday for its June 28 launch in the US.
Amazon also introduced a, allowing anyone with the Alexa app or an , or Echo Show to call or message anyone else with a supported Echo device or the Alexa app. The Echo Show's front-facing camera can use this feature for video chats. Think Apple's FaceTime app, but on your kitchen counter.
CNET reported last month thatdevice with a built-in screen in May. That story followed Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reports last year of a potential product.
Amazon has placed a huge bet on its suite of Echo devices, hoping to use them to dominate the growing smart-home market and gain even more loyal retail customers. So far, that strategy has been working pretty well for the company, with 71 percent of smart speaker customers in the US buying Echo devices, according to eMarketer. The newer speaker has 24 percent of the market.
As the Google Home continues to develop, it should eat into the Echo's market share lead, eMarketer predicted. Also, Apple is expected to come out with its own smart speaker, and Samsung is jumping into the fray with its new voice assistant,. Yet another competitor, the Harman Kardon speaker, will use the Microsoft digital helper Cortana.
With so many new talkative gizmos, Amazon will need to keep improving its Alexa voice assistant and its Echo devices if it wants to stay ahead of its competitors.
Additionally, it's hard to say whether consumers will want to pay for a product that includes many of the same features one can already find in a cheaper Amazon Fire tablet (which have Alexa included) or a phone. Many similar capabilities are also available in the Nucleus intercom, which uses Alexa.
An Amazon representative declined to make company executives available to discuss the Echo Show.
The Echo Show includes two Dolby stereo speakers, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and an Intel Atom processor. It weighs 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg).
The new messaging service includes a feature called "Drop In," designed to let people connect more easily with close friends and family members who also have an Echo Show. People can whitelist others for Drop Ins and are able to reject a Drop In call or only allow an audio call.
The messaging and calling service builds on Amazon's new video conference call service, called Chime, which targets businesses.
"It opens up new interactive dimensions to the consumer shopping experience in a way that competing e-commerce companies don't have today," Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said of the Echo Show.
He said he expects the Show to bolster its capabilities for an office environment sometime this year, so it can compete directly against business video chat services like Microsoft's Skype for Business and Cisco's WebEx.
So far, Amazon's most successful Echo is also its cheapest. Amazon sold nearly 11 million Echo devices in the US since introducing the product in late 2014, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The Echo Dot, which costs $50, makes up a little more than half of that total, while the original Echo, priced at $180, makes up a third. The Tap, an on-the-go version, hasn't been as popular.
Amazon sells its Echo in the UK but didn't announce pricing or a release date for the Echo Show there. The Echo Show's US price converts to about £180.
First published 6:41 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:17 p.m. PT: Adds more details and analyst comments.
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