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The Latest Sign That Google Will Challenge Amazon's Echo Show

By Evan Niu, CFA - Oct 23, 2017 at 8:35PM

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Evidence continues to mount that the search giant is working on a Google Home product with a display.

Last month, TechCrunch reported that Alphabet (GOOG -3.47%) (GOOGL -3.30%) subsidiary Google was working on a smart-home device with a display, one that could compete directly with Amazon.com's (AMZN -5.14%) new Echo Show that debuted earlier this year. That report suggested that the product would have a 7-inch display and was known internally by the code name "Manhattan."

There's now new evidence that the search giant does indeed have something up its sleeve.

Echo Show on a kitchen counter

Image source: Amazon.

Where there's smoke...

Android Police has found some new clues in buried within the most recent version of Google's core mobile app for Android. There are numerous references within the code to something called "Quartz," and it's not clear if Quartz refers to a single product or a family of products. On top of that, there are also references to something called "Monet."

Throughout the code, Android Police finds a wide range of commands and functionalities that would require a display, including watching YouTube, browsing the web, displaying photos, and more. Quartz could refer to the rumored smart-home product, or potentially a software interface that can broadcast Google Home to TVs (Google teased this at its I/O developer conference earlier this year).

...there's a new Google Home with display?

A month ago, Google decided to block Amazon's Echo Show from accessing YouTube. Amazon pointed out at the time that there was no technical justification for removing support, suggesting that the decision was largely due to competitive reasons. Google said that Amazon's implementation of YouTube on Echo Show violated YouTube's terms of service and resulted in a "broken user experience." The move directly undermined Echo Show, since one of the possible use cases for the $230 device was to watch cooking lessons on YouTube if Echo Show was placed in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Google is now aggressively expanding its smart-home product portfolio in a not-so-subtle effort to borrow a page out of Amazon's playbook. The new Google Home Mini is almost identical to the Echo Dot in terms of functionality and the $50 price point (although Google doesn't offer volume discounts like Amazon does).

That's definitely the right call to make, since Amazon's plethora of Alexa-powered smart-home product announcements this year have only expanded its lead over the competition. While Echo Show itself might not be the volume driver because it is the most expensive member of the family, it does offer more diverse use cases thanks to the display. It's hard to overstate the importance of a display, particularly when it comes to delivering actionable information -- a key area where Google has competitive advantages and has emphasized with Google Home's ability to search the web and respond with featured snippets (which has backfired spectacularly, in some cases).

If Google launched a Google Home device with a display in a comparable $200 to $250 range, it would fit nicely between the $130 Google Home and the $400 Google Home Max.

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