Amazon Echo Show

10 May 2017

Amazon:

Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-freeā€”just ask.

Introducing a new way to be together. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.

A big draw of the Echo products to date is that they are not meant to be focal points of a room, you don’t have to look at them to talk to Alexa. This freedom allows users to place their smart cylinder in many more positions in a room than, say, a widescreen TV that pretty much requires a corner stand or wall mount.

Unlike its discreet out-of-the-way siblings, the Echo Show has to be on show. You are meant to look at. It imposes constraints on where it can be positioned; from the photos and the way the device angles itself, it pretty much requires a table or kitchen counter.

Given that it also needs a permanent connection to a power socket, where to put the unit is an immediate barrier to adoption. I know I’m struggling to think of an appropriate place in my house’s living areas. The lounge has a coffee table but it’s centred in the room and not near a plug. The kitchen countertops are already filled with food appliances and the island doesn’t have plug sockets.

Assuming I could find a place for it, the next question is ‘do I want that sitting in plain view’. The designers of the Echo Show clearly prioritised price over style. It’s a clunky device that reminds me too much of an old CRT portable television. Even if the aesthetics of the audio-only Echo cylinder don’t float your boat, it can merely sit out-of-sight on a shelf so its design doesn’t really matter. With the Echo Show, the appearance of it does matter and it’s a hard sell to shoehorn an ugly black rectangle into a room’s decor.

Nevertheless, functionally, the Echo Show makes sense and I’d be interested in trying one. The ability to display visual content in concert with hands-free interaction has definite benefits. Making video calling as pervasive as phone calls is a lofty goal but I believe people want to do it. I’m not convinced Amazon has nailed the form factor to drive adoption with this attempt, though. A movable, portable, sleek iPad/tablet intuitively seems like a better answer here.

Ship dates are funny too. Preorders are live now but the devices won’t deliver until June 28th at the earliest. With rumors of Apple unveiling its (screen-less?) Siri Speaker at WWDC on June 5th, I wouldn’t recommend anyone in the iOS ecosystem to order an Echo Show until Apple has pitched its approach.