Google Home’s Little Secret

When Google executive Mario Queiroz unveiled a new voice-controlled virtual assistant, Google Home, at the company’s developer conference this month, he left out a key detail: Home is a dressed-up version of Chromecast, the video-streaming device Mr. Queiroz’s team previously developed.

The guts of Home, including its ARM-based microprocessor and Wi-Fi chip, will be the same as those in the Chromecast, says a person with direct knowledge of the plan. In other words, Home will essentially be a microphone, speaker, plastic top with LED lights and a fabric or metal bottom—wrapped around a Chromecast.

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For Amazon, which is also a software-driven company, the Echo also has been a sleeper hit, though Amazon doesn’t disclose sales. One research firm estimates sales of about three million units of the $180 Echo. Chromecast retails for $35, a low price that suggests Google might try to undercut the Echo by a significant amount.

Arthur P. Johnson commented on this article.
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One reason for new optimism about hardware at Google is that the emerging new category of home-based virtual assistants plays to Google’s strengths rather than Amazon.com’s or Apple’s.