San Francisco: In the two years since Amazon.com Inc. released its Echo speaker, the household device has become a surprise hit—and a surprise threat to Google, as users turn to the Echo for information from the web. Now Google is trying to strike back.
On Tuesday, the internet search giant introduced Google Home, a voice-controlled wireless speaker that looks and acts much like the Echo. The device comes packaged with Google’s digital assistant technology, a conversational interface that is becoming increasingly critical to the company as its main business, Search, adjusts to a world without screens. The speaker is integrated with other smart-home devices from Philips, Samsung and Nest, a separate division of Google parent Alphabet Inc.
Google Home and the assistant are rolling out nearly two years after the Amazon Echo and its equivalent virtual assistant, Alexa, came to market. Apple Inc. is also working on a speaker device integrated with its Siri voice technology.
Google hopes its advanced search and artificial-intelligence capabilities will appeal to more consumers in the nascent market for smart home gadgets. Its new device comes out alongside other products that Google designed in-house—a departure for the company, which has historically worked with hardware partners.
Google has tried its own devices before, the most successful being the Chromecast media streaming stick. Google is pricing Home relatively cheaply, a strategy that helped Chromecast’s popularity. The new speakers will retail for $129 in the US. Amazon’s main Echo device sells for $179.99, while a smaller Echo Dot speaker ships for $49.99.
In addition to Google Home, Google released an upgraded version of its flagship video streaming device. The new product, Chromecast Ultra, supports TVs that stream in 4K Ultra HD over Wi-Fi networks. Chromecast Ultra will cost $69, more than twice the price of the regular Chromecast device. Bloomberg