Google is reportedly hard at work on a tabletop smart screen device that will feature its voice-activated Google Assistant software, a clear attempt to compete with Amazon's Echo Show and the wave of smart home assistant devices that other tech firms are working on.
According to TechCrunch, which cited two sources familiar with the matter, the Google device, internally codenamed 'Manhattan', will have a similar screen size to the 7-inch Echo Show and will offer Google Assistant, video calling, YouTube and the ability to act as a smart home hub for Google-owned Nest products and other IoT devices.
Google and Amazon recently engaged in a war of words after Google removed YouTube from the Echo Show, claiming that Amazon was delivering a "broken user experience".
The development of a tabletop smart screen device is a change of direction for Google, which was previously focusing on television-sized screens that would integrate its Google Assistant technology. While these may still be on the cards, the success of the Amazon Echo and Echo Show have put pressure on Google to compete in this rapidly growing sector, with the team behind the Manhattan device reportedly aiming to reveal the device before the end of the year.
The device will supposedly run on Google's Android operating system, which would make it easy for third-party developers to build new apps or update existing software to work with it. While nothing has been confirmed yet, using Android could be an important factor in differentiating the device from competitors, as well as forming an attractive selling point to consumers looking for a smooth connection between their smartphone and home hub.
Google does have a hardware event planned for 4 October, but there has been no indication so far that this device will be part of its announcements there.
With numerous other tech firms including Facebook and Samsung reportedly working on smart home hubs that integrate digital assistants, the pressure is on to produce a competitor to the Echo and Echo Show before Amazon captures too much of the market. However, with so much at stake, Google needs to provide consumers with a unique selling point and reason to pick its device over the more-established Amazon versions, lest customers be left asking what they did to deserve this flat, flavourless Manhattan.