Google is ending updates to kill third-party Assistant smart displays

In a very quiet revelation, Google said it has stopped updating Lenovo, JBL, and LG Smart Displays. The writing has been on the wall for a while for this form factor, but it’s still surprising.

Google support article on how toMake Duo calls on your speakers and smart displayRecently added this “important” notice:

Important: Google no longer provides software updates for third-party smart displays: Lenovo Smart Display (7″, 8″, and 10″), JBL Link View, and LG Xboom AI ThinQ WK9 Smart Display. This may affect the quality of video calls and meetings.

Google first announced its Smart Assistant displays in January 2018 at CES. LG ThinQ WK9, Lenovo Smart Display 8/10, and JBL Link View went 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 would stop major development of the underlying OS in February of 2019. At that time, Android Things were only for OEMs developing smart displays and speakers. Before that, it was positioned as a large-scale Internet of Things platform.

Smart Displays saw a lot of new functionality early on as Google competed with Amazon, but they’ve seen very few new features lately. In February of 2022, Google disabled the web browser on non-Nest Hub Smart Displays citing a lack of SafeSearch support. All recent development is for the first-party Nest Hub. These devices run a different operating system (Cast and now Fuchsia) that Google controls directly.

For example, last year’s Nest Hub Max, for example, received a camera-powered Look and Talk feature and quick phrases for skipping “Hey Google.” Even that seems to be overshadowed by the Pixel Tablet, which we discussed earlier is the future of the smart display form factor.

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Meanwhile, today’s announcement says nothing about the Lenovo Smart Clock, which is similar to a smart display but with a different system for all intents and purposes.

We’ve talked at length about how Google fell behind Assistant in its current form as AI took shape. At one point, it seemed poised to be the fabric of communication between all of its platforms. Now, Google has taken a big step back and is mostly focusing on the Android phone/tablet experience. Smart screens are an obvious victim of this.

We’ll be communicating with Google about what third-party smart display owners can expect from their devices going forward.

It should still work, but the experience may deteriorate (as in the case of video calls) and not improve.

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