Dustin Coates in Roundup

News Roundup: August 4, 2017

We start off with some Facebook news, as rumors have floated that the social networking site is working on an Echo Show competitor.

Facebook Is Working on a Video Chat Device

Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring’s F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they’re in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people’s homes.

The reports also say that Facebook’s working on a speaker to go up against the Google Home and Amazon Echo. Once again, we’re still early days and this is a market without a clear winner (the Echo’s success so far notwithstanding).

I don’t doubt that Facebook is testing this, but you’ll have to also forgive my skepticism that this is a done-deal to come to market. This could easily be another “Facebook is close to releasing a ‘Facebook phone’” type situation that we saw so often circa 2009-2012.

Oddly enough, this news came just one day after the news that Facebook had purchased a company to improve Messenger that came with this quote:

“Until we nail [text] we don’t want to go into a world where we teach people what we cannot do well,” Chudnovsky said. “Otherwise we’re going to be in the world where people very quickly realize certain things that we don’t do well yet and then they may not give us another try.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a bit of self-promotion, but I’m excited about this so let me roll with it for a bit. If you read this blog regularly, you know about this already.

I released this week an Algolia Alexa Skills Kit adapter that makes using Algolia search inside the Alexa Skills Kit much easier. The response to it has been great so far, so I hope you’ll all give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Over at Amazon, despite recently hitting 17,000 skills for Alexa, Amazon is still running their incentive programs. “Once again, you’ll get an Echo Dot and socks.”https://developer.amazon.com/alexa-skills-kit/alexa-developer-skill-promotion?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTWpjMFlqVmxOVFF4TlRjeiIsInQiOiJYNW8rTlZoV1BIUnFOcDA3eE9NUGdvU0JwQUNCNGpzVHhxUFlkclA1VWJ1SWZ5UG1BS25DNjlrSkhYM0xJOEFMVWpRWlRvV3JXMzZCQ2RPT0NTUTRyNWUrUU5vUUZ3ZWtHUjQzN2NtdDJuZWZjaWM0RlBsZ09OZDhDXC9XYWFxYlAifQ%3D%3D However, note that for the first time, skills that use the provided templates are ineligible for the promotion. Perhaps a sign that Amazon’s shifting to a focus on quality and differentiation? Hey, even the app store had a fart apps problem early on. At least there’s nothing like tha… Oh, nevermind.

In China, Xiaomi is launching their own smart speaker at a cost of only $49 and, I have to say, a pretty slick design. The thing to ask is not whether Xiaomi can compete with Amazon, but whether they can compete with Alibaba.