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Google may rush out its home hub to scupper Amazon’s Echo Show

GOOGLE IS SAID to be accelerating plans for a more comprehensive smart home hub in light of the global release of the Amazon Echo Show alongside a raft of new devices powered by its Alexa AI assistant.

The device, known internally as Project Manhattan, was slated for next year, but the speed at which Amazon is moving forward is forcing the company to at least announce the product early.

TechCrunch reports that the so-called Manhattan will boast a 7in screen offering video calling, Google Assistant, the usual glut of services like YouTube, and home controls for its Nest range and other smart home devices.

Amazon, which boasts an estimated 70 per cent of the voice assistant market, announced this week that the new Echo Plus would offer direct support for smart home sensors, specifically Zigbee, suggesting it already has its own sensor range in mind, otherwise it would have most likely included Z-Wave and Bluetooth LE gadget support too, currently seen in devices like Athom Homey and Samsung Smartthings.

The TechCrunch information is said to have come directly from a Google employee, who explained that there is a drive to get the product announced in this calendar year to avoid falling too far behind rivals.

Facebook is also said to be working on its own video calling hardware, called Aloha.

In this respect, Google is following the market, having previously been working towards Assistant integration with Smart TVs before taking a sharp turn towards what everyone else is doing.

All this may well be tied up with the surprise decision to remove YouTube support from the Amazon Echo Show, a day before its UK debut. It would make the video service, which also offers live TV in some markets, a killer feature in Google’s offering.

Google says they only borked YouTube on the show because Amazon had clipped out some of the features like Playlists and Subscriptions and thus creating “a broken user experience”.

If the stories are true, Manhattan will be Android-based to make it easy to write for, though it’s worth noting that Google’s ‘Works with Nest’ protocol is already up and running and is open to developers (formerly Project Brillo).

Weirdly, over 60 years after video calling was first demonstrated, the apathy towards the topic is giving way to a gold (well, silicon) rush.

Related: 50 years later and still no one is video calling

We’re not expecting to see Manhattan at next week’s global Google hardware launch, but with all this speculation there may at least be a confirmation it exists and a rough game plan.

The 4 October event will focus on Google Pixel devices – two, possibly three new Pixel phones are expected, along with a so-called Pixelbook to rival Microsoft’s Surface range. There may also be a new mini version of the Google Home. INQ will be very much present at the launch and providing full coverage, (screen or no screen).

Meanwhile, Nvidia’s Shield TV device, which is easily the best thing ever to happen to Android’s TV aspirations, is about to add Samsung SmartThings support to its already bulging sack of talents. The Shield, which already has Google Assistant rolling out will soon be able to act as a home hub device, thanks to a bridge add-on, currently on pre-order at $15 (around £12) – significantly lower than the £99 a dedicated Smartthings hub will cost.

Sadly, still no sign of a successor to the Nvidia Shield tablet, however, which could provide a perfect canvas to control a smart home from. µ

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