Last week, a grainy photo of a 1990s Skymall teleconference device started doing the rounds. According to the site that leaked it, the thing is actually what Amazon’s touchscreen Echo product will look like.
Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal is now saying that it wasn’t some kind of blurry Friday nightmare: the touchscreen Echo is real, and it’s launching tomorrow.
The WSJ said that the device is “expected to be announced as early as Tuesday” and “will also allow users to make internet-based telephone calls,” which was a big deal before Skype was invented.
The real reason for the touchscreen Echo’s existence was revealed later, as “the device will be able to visually summon answers to verbal questions, providing information like e-commerce search results in a more digestible fashion.” Amazon’s core business revolves around making it as easy as possible to buy stuff, and it’s undeniably easier to shop online with a touchscreen than by shouting things at a digital assistant.
All jokes aside, a touchscreen Echo has the potential to be legitimately useful: Alexa is already one of the best ways to control smart home devices, something that would get better with the benefit of a screen. Video-calling, watching recipe videos, checking your wireless door cam — these are all things that Amazon hopes you will be doing with your touchscreen Echo, and I kinda like the sound of it.
The one thing I can’t get past, though, is the design. From the looks of the leaked image, there seems to be a powerful speaker in the bottom and a standard 7-inch tablet up top. It’s great, but it takes up far too much space for most millenial’s kitchen counters to be practical. I get that speakers and microphones all take up space, but I fail to believe that something designed in the same year as a 5.5-inch smartphone with an all-screen display actually needs to be that big.