A reference in an article in The Information this week about a plan by Google to develop a voice recognition system has led to considerable speculation that the company may be planning to release a rival to Amazon’s Echo voice-controlled speaker.
The Information article is based at least partly on an interview with Nest CEO Tony Fadell and is largely devoted to the smart-thermostat maker’s struggle to meet performance expectations after Google purchased the company for $3.2 billion in 2014.
The voice recognition system is mentioned in the article among a list of other products that Google is reportedly working on. No information is available on pricing, availability or the development status of the product.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on the reported product.
The Amazon Echo is an increasingly popular consumer device that lets people use their voices to control various devices and services around the house.
The device uses Amazon’s Alexa voice-actuated digital assistant to let consumers play and control audio from a variety of music streaming services using just their voice. The always-on device can also read audio books and report on local news, weather, business and other information.
After getting off to a relatively slow start, sales of the $179 product have been picking up dramatically, prompting some to call it the sleeper hit in the wireless speaker market for 2015.
Amazon itself last year touted the Echo as the top-selling product in the $100+ product category on Black Friday 2015.
Google currently does not have a product that competes with the Echo. So if the reports are accurate and Google does indeed release an Echo-like product, that would give the company a way to broaden its footprint inside homes.
Google currently offers a technology dubbed OnHub that from a design standpoint at least looks somewhat similar to the Amazon Echo. However, it serves a very different purpose in that it is a router for managing multiple connected devices in the home.
Among other things, the technology offers a feature that gives users a way to boost wireless speeds to specific devices by waving their hand near the product.
Having its own version of Amazon Echo would give Google entry into the booming market for wireless audio devices. Some have pegged the demand for Bluetooth and wireless-enabled consumer audio devices at upward of $24 billion by 2020. Major players in the space include audio giants Bose, Harman International, Sony and numerous others.