Amazon said to plan Alexa speaker with 7-inch touchscreen for 2017

Amazon could follow-up the early success of the Echo and Echo Dot with a new Alexa-powered premium speaker that includes a 7-inch touchscreen that can be tilted to different viewing angles for easier use in the kitchen, according to a new Bloomberg report.

The speaker would include voice-based assistant Alexa, just like the existing Echos, but the inclusion of the screen is designed to make accessing information like weather, upcoming appointments, news – and likely recipes – easier when using the device while it’s positioned on a counter and the owner is engaged in other tasks.

Amazon creating an Echo with a screen would be a departure from its current approach to Alexa devices. Third-party device Nucleus is a touchscreen enabled Intercom that includes Alexa, but it’s made using Amazon’s API, not by the company itself.

The Bloomberg report says that the visual OS powering the display will be a modified version of Fire OS, the Android fork it uses to power its Fire tablets. Users will be able to pin items to the device screen, sort of like using a digital magnet board or refrigerator notepad, according to Bloomberg’s sources, and the device will cost more than any of the current Echo speakers.

A display on an Echo will be interesting, in terms of user experience. Many observers of Echo’s success thus far, myself included, have suggested that part of the reason Alexa’s voice interaction works so well is because it’s really the only option – people don’t consistently use Siri or Google Now because they don’t have to; manipulating the touch screen has a much lower error rate in terms of accomplishing what you intended to do.

Still, a single, premium device with a tablet isn’t going to tank Alexa’s fortunes overall, even if it doesn’t work out as a blended experiment of mixed interaction modes. There’s no guarantee this will ever ht the light of day, but it makes sense that Amazon would be working on ways to capitalize on the promise of Alexa.