Despite mixed early reviews, Amazon's Echo smart home assistant has become one of the company's biggest hardware hits since it launched in 2014, selling an estimated 3 million units. Now, Google wants a slice of the action.
According to a report from the New York Times, quoting sources with knowledge of Google's plans, on Wednesday the search giant will unveil Google Home, its version of a digital home assistant that will compete directly with the Echo.
The launch will take place at Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference, but according to the New York Times reports, the product won't launch until this fall. Google is keen to establish its position in a fast-evolving market and leverage its AI-based Google Now product to carry out a range of tasks for users.
It is unclear exactly what Google Home will allow users to do, but looking at the range of voice-activated features available on Android smartphones and tablets through Google Now, users are likely to be given the ability to get updates about weather and calendar appointments; play music; receive details on sports results and movie listings as well as make phone calls and get messages read back to them.
It is unclear it Google Home will allow users to make purchases directly, as Amazon's Echo device does.
Amazon's digital assistant Alexa, which powers the $179 Echo, has gradually been given increased capabilities since it was first launched and can now order an Uber, get fitness information from your Fitbit device, get a pizza delivered to your door and, most recently, connect to your other smart home devices to allow you turn off the lights or close the garage door with your voice.
Alexa also allows users to easily order goods from Amazon, with a report from Slice Intelligence, a company tracking online receipt data from more than 4 million US consumers, showing that Echo customers bought three times the average Amazon shopper in 2015.
To take advantage of the Echo's success, Amazon earlier this year introduced the $90 Echo dot, a smaller version of the product, which is designed to help create a multi-room setup but lacks the powerful speaker functionality of the original — though you can connect a separate Bluetooth speaker. It has also introduced the $130 Tap, which offers similar functionality to the Echo but without the voice-activated feature.
There is no indication of what the Google Home device will look like or how much it will cost. Google has declined to comment on the report.