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Google has announced that it has stopped updating third-party Smart Displays made by Lenovo, JBL, and LG. The news was quietly revealed in a support article on how to make Duo calls on speakers and Smart Displays. According to the article, Google will no longer provide software updates for the Lenovo Smart Display (7″, 8″, and 10″), JBL Link View, and LG Xboom AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display, and this could impact the quality of video calls and meetings.
The writing has been on the wall for some time for the Smart Display form factor, but it’s still surprising. Google first announced Assistant Smart Displays in January of 2018 at CES, with the LG ThinQ WK9, Lenovo Smart Display 8/10, and JBL Link View going on sale later that year. The last third-party Smart Display was a 7-inch model from Lenovo in late 2019.
Google announced that it was stopping major development on the underlying operating system in February of 2019, with Android Things becoming only for OEMs developing Smart Displays and speakers. Before that, it was positioned as a vast Internet of Things platform.
Smart Displays saw a lot of new functionality early on as Google competed with Amazon, but have seen very few new features as of late. In February of 2022, Google disabled the web browser on non-Nest Hub Smart Displays citing the lack of SafeSearch support. All recent development is for the first-party Nest Hub. These devices are running a different operating system (Cast and now Fuchsia) that Google directly controls.
The Nest Hub Max last year received the camera-powered Look and Talk and Quick Phrases to skip “Hey Google.” Even that looks set to be overshadowed by the Pixel Tablet, which is said to be the future of the Smart Display form factor.
Meanwhile, today’s announcement says nothing about the Lenovo Smart Clock, which is like a Smart Display but on a different system for all intents and purposes.
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Google is pulling back on Assistant in its current form as generative AI takes shape. At one point, it seemed poised to be the connectivity tissue between all of its platforms. Now, Google has greatly pulled back and is mostly focusing on the Android phone/tablet experience. Smart Displays are a clear casualty of this.
It is unclear what third-party Smart Display owners can expect from their devices going forward. While they should still work, the experience might be degraded (as in the case of video calling) and won’t improve. We will be reaching out to Google for more information on this matter.