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Apple, Inc.'s Echo Rival: Coming This Year?

By Daniel Sparks - May 27, 2016 at 5:11PM

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Suddenly, this surprising space is going mainstream. Here's what there is to know about Apple's rumored new AI product.

Amazon's (AMZN 3.15%) AI-powered hands-free speaker and voice assistant, Echo, is off to a great start. But soon, the e-commerce company will no longer have the space to itself. Not only did tech-giant Alphabet (GOOG -0.27%) (GOOGL -0.21%) recently introduce its own version of an Echo, called Google Home, but now a growing number of rumors point to an Echo rival from Apple (AAPL 1.62%), too.

Amazon Echo. Image source: Amazon.

Here's what investors need to know about Apple's potential move into the space.

Going mainstream?

As it turns out, intelligent assistants in the form of a hub in the home may be going mainstream faster than you would have guessed. Amazon can testify firsthand to the unexpected demand for its AI-based assistant. "Echo, too, is off to an incredible start," Amazon said in its first-quarter report, "and we can't yet manage to keep it in stock despite all efforts."

Alphabet has already endorsed the space. The company announced its own version of Google Home at Google I/O earlier this month. "Google Home is a voice-activated product that brings the Google assistant to any room in your house," Google said in a press release.

The release continued: "It lets you enjoy entertainment, manage everyday tasks, and get answers from Google -- all using conversational speech. With a simple voice command, you can ask Google Home to play a song, set a timer for the oven, check your flight, or turn on your lights."

Google Home. Image source: Google.

Sounds a lot like Amazon's Echo, doesn't it?

Now, if rumors are true, the intelligent-assistant hub space is about to get another huge endorsement from Apple.

The rumors

What are the rumors that have surfaced so far about Apple's Echo competitor?

The Information:

  • Apple was working on an intelligent-assistant hub before Amazon launched its Echo last year.
  • The device will be based on Siri, and include a speaker and microphone.
  • Apple is planning to open Siri to developers with a software development kit, or SDK.
  • A Siri-based SDK could be announced as early as Apple's 2016 WWDC event, which is scheduled for June 13. 

VentureBeat:

  • Apple's Siri-based intelligent-assistant hub may not be an entirely new product, but rather an overhauled Apple TV. "They want Apple TV to be just the hub of everything," a "source familiar with the matter" told VentureBeat.

CNET:

  • Apple's new device could potentially be equipped with a camera and facial recognition capabilities, making it "self aware."
  • In the same report, however, CNET admitted that Apple could decide not to include the camera because of privacy concerns.
  • The product could launch by the end of this year, "but it's more likely to be available in 2017."

A Siri-based voice-assistant hub could not only strengthen the company's ecosystem of products, but it could also give customers another Apple product to upgrade to.

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