I've gotten fed up with the nonsense that is Chromecast (slow, limited), Apple TV (slow, limited), and Fire TV Stick (slow, limited). I ran across the Vero 4K, which was announced in February, 2017. Besides good reviews about good hardware, the responsive and active half-way decent, half-asshat forum (using Discourse), the system uses OSMC (open source media center) which is an Embedded Linux (Debian) system that uses Kodi as the default UI. In addition, the main developers contribute upstream. This is something I can support, and it looks like a viable way toward a more functional set-top-box/iptv/pvr/media-center.
The new Amazon Echo Show looks great. Watching the video, it is striking that the interface appears so clean. This is obvious when using voice, since buttons don't really count. Also, the fact that this is not just a piece of hardware and natural language interface, these are applications being shown. In terms of video/voice calls, there is quite a bit of competition, including Facebook, Whatsapp (Facebook again), Viber, Line, Telegram, etc. Oh, and don't forget about Nucleus who seemed to have the idea before Amazon (who is an investor).
The fact that the Echo dominates the smart speaker market should be a cause for concern by the likes of the slower-moving Google (who bought Nest years ago), not to mention molassas-like Apple has HomeKit, though that requires that OEMs actually buy Apple chips and integrate them into their devices.
Amazon's open approach to connected devices is a repetition of Android vs. IOS. Sure, there are a lot of iphones and even ipads, but the notion that this same rather small minority share will be able to co-opt the vast other connected devices, not really thought out very well.
The interaction with other Echo Show devices and other smart devices shows off what is at stake here: Echo as a platform for the home.
Missing from Amazon Echo Show, Release 1.0
My first few thoughts about using this new device in the home are what is missing.
- There is no video output, but definitely connecting to a monitor or a TV screen makes a lot of sense (that is, it could perform the function of a FireStick).
- There is no keyboard input (but it is a touchscreen, of course), perhaps bluetooth mice/keyboards will work? Not a real deal-breaker
- Generic browser user included? We did not see anything resembling such.
I get it. This is not meant to become a computer. Rather as its' own unique platform, it will be the heart of the connected home. Which leads to the following significant motivation.
The Future Home will require Echo-integrated Devices and Services
Apparently there are an ever increasing number of devices available to Echo. Certain smart hubs can act as extenders, such as the Almond+ which happens to be our Wifi for the first floor.
This is an insight for anyone making buying decisions regarding any kind of home device. Even moreso, those software services which Echo can interact with will have an additional layer of functionality based on that fact alone. This means, for example, that my music cannot be stored only in Google Music (where it reposes for free) but I will need to also ship over the 11,000 songs into Amazon Music (for $25/year), and only then will that become available on the Echo platform.
That said, there will be ways of doing some DIY integration, such as using Alexa to interact with Foscam cameras via IFTTT:
Back in the early 1990s I realized that most computers were misconfigured. Even today, nearly 20 years later, the otherwise well-engineered Apple products have not solved this problem. SSD drive-based Macs can particularly benefit from a half-dozen or so tweaks.