Tech Buzz

Google’s Chirp May Try to Drown Out Amazon’s Echo

Google is rumored to be developing a direct competitor to Amazon’s Echo, code-named “Chirp.” The device, which might resemble the OnHub router (pictured above), would incorporate its Google Now voice assistant technology.

Google likely will launch the product later this year, according to a Wednesday Recode article that debunked earlier reports suggesting Google would launch the new system at its annual I/O developer conference next week.

Google likely will preview the system at I/O, as well as reveal some of its emerging technology in the virtual reality market, Recode said.

Echo’s Success

The Echo has been one of Amazon’s biggest product launches in years. It combines a speaker with the Alexa personal digital assistant — voice recognition software that answers questions, sounds alerts, maintains lists, reorders Amazon Prime products, plays music, and controls compatible door locks, lights and other home automation systems, among other things.

Amazon has sold more than 3 million Echo units since the product’s launch in late 2014, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reported last month.

Consumers are using the Echo for many different purposes, according to CIRP’s research, with more using it to stream music and answer questions than to control home utilities and security.

Google has substantial experience in integrating its hardware and software, noted Michael Levin, cofounder of CIRP.

However, even if it does bring the rumored product to fruition, Amazon will not roll over and cede any ground, he added.

“Amazon is a smart, determined competitor in many spaces and defends its products energetically,” Levin told TechNewsWorld.

Although the rumor seems credible, it’s not likely that Google is going to raise the bar with the introduction of an Echo competitor, maintained Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“They really haven’t been all that successful with new products, so I doubt [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos is staying up late worrying about their offering,” he told TechNewsWorld.

That said, “I agree much of the future of in-home IoT will likely be tied to something like Echo,” Enderle continued, “and I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t heard of an Apple offering yet.”

Integrating Hardware With Search

Google’s product likely will function as a complementary hardware device to Google’s search engine and other service-oriented apps, such as maps and business solutions, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“If customers queried a Chirp device about pizza delivery, they might be steered towards Google clients or restaurants highly rated by Google users,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It makes sense that Google would develop a competitor to the Echo as a complement to its line of home automation products at Nest, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“The home portal is a natural extension of Google’s speech recognition technology,” he told TechNewsWorld, “although the challenge will be how do people react to Google having so much access inside their houses. Consider that Google kept the Nest separate for that very reason.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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