The Seattle-based e-commerce giant could release a new Echo device that features a built-in screen as soon as next month, CNet reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. The device has been referred to as "Knight" among employees at Amazon, CNet noted.
Shares of Amazon were advancing 1.2% to $919.80 on Thursday afternoon ahead of the company's fiscal first-quarter results due out after the market close.
An Echo with a built-in screen would open up new ways for users to interact with the device, such as video chats and expanded shopping experiences. Reports about Amazon developing a screen-equipped Echo have bubbled up in the technology community over the last several months, with the Wall Street Journal reporting last May that the tech giant had built prototypes of a tablet-like computer screen that would allow users to summon web pages, videos or images with their voice. Bloomberg last November also explored those rumors, noting that the screen could measure up to seven inches, marking a departure from the Echo's traditional cylindrical shape.
Like the $199.99 Echo Look, the Echo Knight is likely to cost more than the Echo, Echo Dot and Tap, which cost $179.99, $129.99 and $49.99, respectively.
Amazon appears to be speeding up the release of its newer Echo devices as a means of staving off growing competition from Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Home. The Echo Looks, released on Wednesday, served as a significant update from the Echo, Echo Dot and Tap, being that it's uniquely targeted for use in the bedroom and is meant for users to photograph and share their outfits. Google, for its part, has been rolling out more and more advanced features for the Home, such as the ability to distinguish among multiple voices. Now up to six people can connect their account to a Google Home -- a feature that's currently absent from Amazon's range of Echo devices.
And Apple could soon release its own Echo competitor, too. According to Apple leaker Sonny Dickson, the tech giant is "currently finalizing" designs for a voice-activated device that's equipped with its Siri digital assistant, AirPlay and Beats technologies and also runs on iOS. Talk of Apple developing its own home speaker has also been reported previously.
Google has made significant strides in catching up to Amazon's line of Echo devices, but so far Amazon still seems to be winning. The company is estimated to have sold 5.1 million Echo units between 2014 and 2016. Google hasn't released sales figures for its Home device, but analytics firm VoiceLabs estimates that the number of google Home users quadrupled during the holiday season.
The Echo Look and, if it actually comes to fruition, the Echo Knight, shows that Amazon is trying to advance the Echo ecosystem beyond just being voice-activated devices. Analysts have said that a screen-enabled Echo would be able to handle more complex tasks, such as ordering a plane ticket, in that it would be able to serve up multiple answers to a search query on the screen.
The Echo Look's machine learning capabilities, in particular, underline the fact that Amazon wants its Echo devices to do more than just respond to a user's voice. Analysts may learn more about Amazon's plans with respect to voice activated devices when the company reports first-quarter results late Thursday.
"Adding 'eyes' to the Echo means it can be much more than a vocal computer," said Zoe Leavitt, tech industry analyst at CB Insights. "Computer vision could give more computing interface options like gesture control, expression and emotion reading, as well as insights into the customer's health and well being."