Out of more than 50 million Alexa devices sold, fewer than 500,000 have been the Echo Show, according to Canalys. That’s partly because the device fails to live up to the promise of a “smart speaker with a screen.”
With the Echo Show as a reference point, the recently launched Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant has been well reviewed. I don’t have one, but it too appears to fall short. That’s because it’s not really a tablet with a speaker. It offers a more limited “optimized experience” for the form factor.
It can do some things well (e.g., visual display of recipes), but it can’t do what a small tablet can. Therein lies the problem and the opportunity: to create something that is much more like an iPad in landscape mode with a great speaker, but not simply a tablet on its side. Amazon’s Fire Tablet Charging Dock is a tablet in landscape mode but without good sound.
Now, Google appears to be directly entering the market with its own smart display. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Google will release its own device in time for holiday shopping this year. In the same way that Google shook up the tablet market in 2012 with its early Nexus tablet ($199), it could do the same for smart displays with its own unit.
Pricing, quality and features will determine whether it succeeds. It will need to be priced below $200 and function more like a tablet than an Echo Show, plus provide great sound. That’s the recipe for a successful product in this category.
If smart displays do gain traction, then it changes the calculus for marketers and brands, because you can do a great deal more commercially on a tablet than on a smart speaker. The advertising options are also quite a bit better.
An earlier report from The Information, citing internal Amazon documents, said that transactions on smart speakers are essentially nonexistent, despite consumer surveys suggesting otherwise. The right smart display, broadly adopted, would quickly change all that.