Lenovo announced a new Smart Assistant today for the home and disappointingly it does not run a version of Windows 10, but is in fact powered by Amazon’s Echo technology and features the iconic Alexa smart assistant.
This is however not a complete loss for Microsoft, due to the little known fact that much of Alexa’s smarts are actually driven by Bing search.
Microsoft has been making steady gains with Bing, such that the service is now profitable, not only due to winning over web users, but by embedding the technology in the places you would least expect – the devices of their competitors, such as the Amazon Echo or Apple’s iPhone and Mac computers.
With the smart home racing to mainstream adoption, Microsoft still wins if they power the back end, and leave the front end to some-one else.
Lenovo’s Smart Assitant is a skinnier clone of the Amazon Echo, but at a somewhat lower price, a major selling point Lenovo notes, as price is the number one hurdle to smart device ownership. Their version also features a somewhat more homely design, addressing another adoption stumbling block.
Their Echo features eight 360-degree far-field microphones with noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation – designed to pick up users’ voice commands from up to 16 feet (5 meters) away.
Additionally, the device comes with the option of a special Harman Kardon® edition ($50 extra) for premium audio quality for music and home entertainment. The Lenovo Smart Assistant is also designed to run Lenovo smart home devices as well as scores of existing third-party products to expand consumers’ options.
“Our goal has never been to simply build smart home devices for the sake of advancing technology alone,” says Johnson Jia, Lenovo’s senior vice president, PC & Smart Device Business Group. “In the same way a person’s IQ is measured by applied knowledge, we believe products are ‘smart’ to the degree they’re actually understood and applied to daily life by their users.
The basic Lenovo Smart Assistant starts at $129.99 ($50 cheaper than the Amazon Echo) and is available in Light Gray, Green and Orange beginning in May 2017, while the Lenovo Smart Assistant Harman Kardon Edition starts at $179.99 (same price as the Amazon Echo, but with more powerful speakers), available beginning in May 2017.