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World’s largest online retailer Amazon launches new smart home device

Amazon has announced details about developing a new smart home device aimed at fending off competition from market competitors Google and Apple. The world's largest online retailer is planning to capitalize even further on the surprising success of its voice-controlled home gadgets by introducing a new premium Echo-like speaker to the marketplace.

The new smart home device will have a touchscreen measuring around seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the voice-based Alexa digital assistant. Those who have developed the new device hope it will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments and news.

The latest Amazon speaker will be much larger in size and will tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing. High-grade speakers will make the smart home gadget sound much better than other Echo devices currently on the market. Amazon's new smart home Echo device is expected to be announced as soon as the first quarter of 2017, although the company, which has its HQ located in Seattle Washington, declined to comment.

So-called smart home gadgets are one of the latest computing battlefields fought over by the largest technology companies. However, they have so far failed to match the popularity of smartphones and personal computers. Amazon's hardware track record has also been mixed, with the disappointing launch of the Fire Phone in 2014. Its Echo speakers have been a surprise hit though, with Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimating US sales of more than 5 million units since 2014.

Amazon's planned expansion of the Alexa-powered line coincides with growing competition from Alphabet's Google Home speaker and Apple's interest in building a home device using its Siri digital assistant. The new Amazon device will use an optimized version of Fire OS, the software that runs Fire TV set-top box.