Apple’s marketing chief says smart speakers should have built-in displays

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, recently sat down for a quick interview with Gadgets 360, discussing the possibility of App Store upgrade pricing, the future of Amazon Echo-like smart speakers, Apple’s new programming language Swift and more.

Commenting on Echo-like products, Schiller opined that smart speakers should feature a built-in display for those times when you want to, say, share photos, which is something voice-only assistants are not perfectly suited for.

Asked to share his thoughts on devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, he said:

Well, I won’t talk to either one specifically, I don’t want to. My mother used to have a saying that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all. So, instead, let’s abstract the conversation just briefly to some of the general concepts and talk about those, because it’s really interesting.

First of all, there is a lot of talk in the industry about voice-driven assistants and we believe deeply in voice-driven assistants that’s why invest in Siri, but there is interest in a voice-only assistant, where there is no screen, and we think it’s important to that there are times when it’s convenient to simply use your voice when you are not able to use the screen.

For example, if you’re driving and you want Siri to work for you without having to look at the screen, that’s the best thing. Or maybe you’re across the room, and you want to ask Siri to change the song you were listening to—you don’t have to walk over and back and you can use Siri instead.

So there’s many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn’t mean you’d never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don’t think suits many situations.

For example, if I’m looking for directions and I’m using Maps, Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that’s really convenient but it’s even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I’m going to do.

Or, for example, with photography, and one of the most popular reasons for our products is photography now, and photography requires a screen.

So the idea of a device without a screen, well it’s not really useful for that whole category of photos that we all share. and all the social networking apps that are now embracing photos more and more, well, it doesn’t work really so great in voice-only assistants.

Or the biggest category of all of apps is games, and I have yet to see any voice-only games that, for me, are nearly as fun as the one that I play on my screen. And so I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they’re gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this.

Bloomberg claimed Amazon was working on bringing a seven-inch touchscreen display and telephony to a next-generation Echo Home device. Due next year, the premium device will target kitchens and cost more than the current Echo gadgets.

“The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing,” said one of the people familiar with Amazon’s plans.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced a new Invoke smart speaker with built-in Cortana, Harman Kardon audio technology and other features, due this fall.

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A recent supply chain rumor claimed AirPods manufacturer Inventec had landed Apple’s first order for an Echo-like device with Siri, AirPlay and more. The accessory should sport a Mac Pro-like cylindrical chassis with a concave top with built-in controls and a speaker mesh.

According to Australian leakster Sonny Dickson, Apple’s gadget will use Beats audio technology for “excellent acoustic performance” and include seven tweeters, a woofer and possibly the company’s W1 wireless chip which debuted in AirPods.

According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the connected speaker will file as the iPhone maker’s first AI-driven smart home device. It’s expected to be targeted at the premium segment of the market and cost more than Amazon’s $179 Echo.

The analyst said the Siri-driven speaker could be announced at WWDC 2017 in June.

Siri device mockup via iFunnyVlogger on Twitter