The touchscreen Amazon Echo could launch on Tuesday

Amazon could be about to launch Echo with a touchscreen as soon as tomorrow. The word comes from the WSJ citing sources familiar with the matter. The new model would feature a 7-inch touchscreen, display answers to verbal questions and feature internet-based telephone calls.

Last week several sites posted images of a device they claimed to be the upcoming Echo touchscreen speaker. The reaction was mixed. Some praised the capabilities added by the touchscreen while others blasted the device, saying it’s ugly and looks dated. Either way, such a device with the described feature set would put Amazon in front of its chief rival Google Home.

The Echo is a fantastic device. I have four throughout my house. But the device is missing features and the lack of screen can be a limiting at times. For instance, it’s hard to browse music catalogs by voice. Adding a touchscreen could be helpful for some users.

The WSJ says this next Echo will be able to make telephone and video calls. And since it’s common to place an Echo in a central location — like someone would with a telephone — adding these features could help sway some potential buyers into purchasing the device.

Yet there are challenges with a screen not present on a headless device. App developers will now have to decide if it makes sense to develop a visual user interface. As Brian pointed out yesterday, third parties have always been key in Amazon’s strategy and it’s likely that will hold true with this new device, too.

With the Echo, Amazon has a commanding position in the market. A study conducted by eMarketer says the maker of the Echo-branded speakers has 70.6 percent of all voice-enabled speaker users in the U.S. this year. That’s well ahead of Google Home’s 23.8 percent and other, smaller players like Lenovo, LG, Harman Kardon, and Mattel, who combined only account for 5.6 percent of users. And Amazon is only now getting its footing.

Amazon just released the Echo Look, a version of the voice assistant with a built-in webcam designed to help a person pick out clothing. Upon its joining of the Echo family, the Look makes four Echoes on the market, and if the WSJ’s report is true, a fifth is about to launch.