Google killed a product this week with the Pixel Tablet and charging speaker dock. This time, Google didn’t kill just its products; it also foreshadowed that the smart display category would die. Oh well. It’s over. They did a great job, but it’s time to move on. Google’s Rose Yao said it best when she described the Pixel Tablet docked on its dock: “It felt like an intelligent display, but has one big advantage… Android applications.”
The game is over when one of only two companies who make smart displays announces proudly that their shiny new smart home controller is and not smart display. Yao correctly identified one of the two main problems with smart displays, namely that their software is frustratingly restricted. What is the other problem? The hardware is also bad. This is a double-edged sword.
Where did it all go away?
The smart display’s original concept was a smart-speaker with a screen that could display extra information. Dieter Bohn praised the first Echo Show for not trying to be a tablet. He wrote that “its strength lies in its simplicity.”
Is this a smart-home control interface? Is it an electronic calendar for the household? Is it an ultra-compact TV? Is it an intelligent speaker? Is it video calling device? Is it a clock? Is it digital photo frame or an alarm clock? Yes. Does it really do all of these things? No. Well, I will give them a digital picture frame.
It is important to note that I am referring specifically to smart displays. Smart speaker devices are great. Smart speakers are better at playing music (since there’s no giant screen to ruin the acoustics), and they can also respond to voice commands better (for the exact same reason). A smart display is only going to cause problems with a smart speaker. The original Echo speaker I bought in 2014 is still working fine, but multiple smart displays have failed.
A smart display adds nothing but problems to a speaker smart
Amazon and Google, the two major companies that produce smart displays, have created a largely closed ecosystem that runs poorly designed software on hardware that is underpowered. This is a good thing, as they are cheap compared to devices that do everything. Both the nest hub and the Echo Show 5 are available at aggressive discounts. The Echo Show 5 is priced at $85 and $99 respectively. The price of an iPad, Google Pixel Tablet or the very cool looking shared tablet from Hearth starts at $300 and goes up to $700.
Amazon and Google have both tried to make their multi-tasking gadgets work in our homes, but they’ve failed. From sticking a creepy rotating screen on one and turning another into a sleep tracker to making nearly all of them