Amazon’s surprisingly successful (relatively speaking) line of Echo products just added a new member of the family. As Google pokes along trying to make the Home relevant, and Microsoft won’t enter the market until the Fall with Harmon Kardon’s Invoke, Amazon already has the original Echo, the Echo Dot, the Echo Look (which is a camera that will help you shop for clothes), and the Tap. In addition, certain Fire TVs have Alexa built in, as does the Amazon app on many Smart Phones.
Amazon, in other words, has moved very aggressively to put its voice-recognition in your hands as quickly as possible. And now Amazon has debuted the Echo Show. The Show is a touch screen-enable version of Alexa, and there’s potentially some interesting functionality. According to Amazon, you can watch some videos, see music lyrics, enable security cameras, use it as a home-intercom device, and even make video calls to other Show devices.
Right off the bat, though, it’s clear this is very much a first-gen product. Where the Echo, Dot, and Tap are aesthetically pleasing cylinders with glowing-blue orbs, the Show is…so very retro. And, in my opinion, not a good way. Obviously, the cylindrical form factor doesn’t work well for a video-based device, but… surely there was a better design out there than what’s being offered.
To me, it looks like a Macintosh Classic that’s been squished.
Privacy Concerns for Amazon
Of course, any discussion of the Echo–and, really, of any of these always-listening home assistants–needs to include concerns for the privacy of the home user.
Last year, law enforcement officers in Arkansas sought to obtain data from Amazon in the middle of a murder investigation because they believed that the Echo–or Amazon’s servers– might have recorded evidence. With the addition of video capabilities to these devices, consumers need to be confident that their movements in the home aren’t being monitored. (The same concerns go for things like the Kinect, anyone’s laptop, webcams, et cetera.)