It appears as though Amazon is working on bringing not one, but two fully functional web browsers to their touchscreen-equipped Echo Show smart speaker. A member of a Facebook Group has posted images of new browser options that have appeared in the device settings of their Echo Show. I have also individually discovered code in a recent release of Amazon Silk for Fire TV devices that suggests that support for Amazon Echo devices is being built into the browser.
A new “Web Options” menu item has appeared on the Echo Show of a Facebook Group member. Selecting the option provides a browser menu that allows the user to select from Silk or Firefox as their preferred web browser. It does not appear as though choosing a browser does anything at the moment.
The user claims that their Echo Show is running software version 618516920, which is a version that is newer than what is publicly available on standard Echo Shows. The most likely explanation for the new setting appearing and the device running an unreleased software version is that whoever the Echo Show is registered to is part of Amazon’s employee beta testing program and the Facebook Group user is unaware that these new options are not yet public. This exact scenario is something that we saw recently when images of an unreleased NBA subscription option appeared on an Amazon employee’s Fire TV.
Amazon Silk on Fire TV devices was just rebranded to drop “for Fire TV” from the app’s official name. It seems now that this change is likely part of a larger emphasis on Silk being an important part of multiple devices made by Amazon.
I’ve taken a closer look at the code for the Fire TV version of Amazon Silk and have found lines that confirm that Amazon is working to bring Silk to Echo devices. The strings.xml file, which holds all the various labels and sentences seen by a user, has several recently added lines of text that are labeled for use with Echo devices. Amazon’s Echo Show runs Android, just like Fire TV devices, so it is not unusual for Silk to share code between the two devices.
The Echo text labels I’ve found in Silk have to do with setting bookmarks and adjusting web scaling. The text “Make webpages easier to read and touch by increasing the size of text and buttons on the page” implies that users will be able to navigate webs pages using the Echo Show’s touchscreen, just like you would on a web browser running on a tablet.
Amazon has gone to great lengths to make the Echo Show a voice-first device. Their marketing and advertisements never show someone using the touchscreen of the Echo Show, so it’s probably safe to assume that there will be some kind of voice control component to a browser made for the Echo Show. Loading web pages, scrolling, and zooming can easily be done by voice, but we’ll have to wait and see if Amazon has figured out some way to select links within a page by voice.
When Amazon Silk for the Fire TV first leaked, Amazon was experimenting with a clever link highlighting system that allowed users to select links on a page by flagging all links with unique button combinations. Amazon ultimately went with a traditional on-screen cursor, that the user moves around like a mouse pointer, when Silk for Fire TV was ultimately released, but perhaps we’ll see a voice-controlled version of their experimental link clicking system used when Silk is released for the Echo Show.
The upcoming release of web browsers for the Echo Show has to be Amazon’s answer to Google blocking YouTube access from the device. When Google threatened to block YouTube access on Fire TV devices, Amazon Silk and Firefox browsers were released for the platform to maintain the ability to watch YouTube videos. It seems like Amazon is planning to apply the same tactic to restore YouTube access on the Echo Show.