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Samsung's Alexa-like home speaker could arrive in early 2018

It's rumored to cost around $200.

Samsung may finally make its move against the Amazon Echo and Google Home with a smart home speaker powered by its Bixby software. The speaker is slated to arrive in the first half of 2018, Bloomberg reports

Early rumors of the smart speaker date back to July, but they gained credence when Samsung Mobile president DJ Koh confirmed that the company was working on such as product. In October, Samsung announced Bixby 2.0 and pledged to bring Bixby to its smart home appliances.

Samsung's Bixby Voice software had a rocky start when it first launched on the Galaxy S8 phone after that device had already entered the market. Although CNET was iffy on Bixby's capabilities, Samsung always envisioned its as an entire ecosystem that includes Samsung TVs and fridges.

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A Bixby home speaker would put Samsung in direct competition with Amazon, Google and Apple with its HomePod, in addition to standalone smart speakers that use Amazon's Alexa software. Some analysts predict that smart speakers will become a $3.5 billion industry by 2021, up from $720 million in 2016. Manufacturers are fighting for a slice of that pie.

Bloomberg also reports that the speaker may cost around $200 (about £150 or AU$260), which would put it in between the Amazon Echo at $99 and Apple's HomePod at $349. According to Bloomberg's sources, a prototype of the Bixby speaker is roughly bigger than the Echo and smaller than the HomePod. The prototype was also said to have no screen (unlike the Amazon Echo Show) and come in a matte black color, although additional colors were rumored.

Samsung declined to comment on this story.