Zoom Launches Giant, Voice Assistant-Free Smart Display for Home Offices
Zoom announced on Wednesday that it is jumping into hardware, starting pre-sales for a kind of oversize smart display, only without any voice assistant. The video communication platform is pitching the $600, 27-inch Zoom for Home as a way to augment the software that has become the center of many people’s professional lives while working from home during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
The Zoom for Home will apparently operate as a kind of a cross between a tablet computer, computer monitor, and smart display. The hybrid result couples eight microphones and three wide-angle cameras to a giant touchscreen embedded with Zoom software, including whiteboard and screen-sharing features. Zoom collaborated with tech manufacturer DTEN to create the device, which is officially called the Zoom for Home – DTEN ME. The device will start shipping in August and Zoom is planning to partner with other manufacturers for more displays in the future. Zoom for Home users can run the device through their Zoom account, both free and paid, and it can connect with any Zoom Rooms Appliances, like the screens for office Zoom built with other companies.
“After experiencing remote work ourselves for the past several months, it was clear that we needed to innovate a new category dedicated to remote workers,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in a statement. “I’m so proud of the team for continuing to think outside the box and prove why Zoom is the best unified communications platform that can meet the needs of all types of users.”
While Zoom for Home superficially resembles a supersized version of a smart display, it lacks any voice assistant, a key element for most such devices in both the consumer and enterprise spaces. Zoom neither built its own voice assistant nor partnered with the more popular platforms to include one. The only way to control the device is by touch, despite the elaborate array of microphones. That absence feels like a glaring error. The confluence of people spending more time at home near their smart speakers and smart displays combined with an aggressive push into enterprise services by voice makes a smart device without any voice control arguably obsolete immediately.
Microsoft, for instance, debuted its plans to revamp the Teams call and chat platform only a week ago, including the new Teams displays. These touchscreen computers bring a lot of the same features to digital meetings as Zoom, albeit on a smaller screen, but they incorporate the Cortana voice assistant as a control and management tool. The same is true for when Cortana is added to the Teams apps for Android and iOS later this year. Zoom’s reveal comes so soon after Microsoft’s news that it’s easy to believe that Zoom sees the display as a competitor and accelerated its reveal as a result. The size, cost, and limitations of the Zoom for Home also suggest it might have originally been aimed for office meeting rooms before the pandemic vacated a huge number of offices in the U.S. and globally. Zoom for Home may be a hit when it arrives, but without a voice assistant, it likely won’t be a device people use when they have other options.