Roughly half of American homes no longer have an old-school telephone, relying instead on cell phones and smartphones. If Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) have their way, home phones could become even more of a rarity.
A report in The Wall Street Journal suggests the companies are working on adding voice-calling capabilities to the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers.
The Plan to Make Amazon Echo Your New Telephone
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google and Amazon are looking at an all-new use for their smart speakers: replacing the home telephone.
The idea makes sense. Telephones increasingly seem like outdated technology. Between smartphones and PC-based calling services like Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype, the days of the dedicated home phone seem numbered. In 2015, a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (which, apparently, cares about these things) found that nearly half of American homes had given up their dedicated landline.
But, that still leaves a lot of telephones in operation.
Apparently, it’s occurred to both Amazon and Google that smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home may be the right device in the right place at the right time. Smart speakers get the name because they leverage an AI-powered personal digital assistant.
Amazon’s Echo is home to Alexa, with over 5,000 skills. These devices have the smarts to take on telephone functionality. They could incorporate Skype, for example. And, Google has a slew of its own telephony applications it could leverage, including Google Voice and Duo.
The Amazon Echo and Google Home are equipped with excellent microphones, they have speakers, they are always connected (to the internet) and they respond instantly to voice commands, even from across a room.
So, as long as privacy isn’t an issue (since using one would be like using a speakerphone), a smart speaker could replace a telephone and save consumers money by eliminating the monthly cost of a landline. While this would be a potentially useful trick for existing smart speaker owners, it’s the kind of practical capability that could drive sales among those consumers who wouldn’t otherwise consider a high-tech device like the Amazon Echo.
The Challenges of Turning a Smart Speaker Into a Telephone
While the technology and built-in smarts may be there, in reality turning that Amazon Echo on your kitchen counter into your home phone may not be quite that simple.