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Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod. Photo: John Brecher for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Eager for a place in the home, tech giants are beefing up their smart speaker products, hoping to find just the right combination of screens, speakers and features that will stick with consumers.

Why it matters: There's a lot of potential in the smart speaker market, especially for the big companies like Google and Facebook whose traditional advertising streams face slowed growth projections. But balancing privacy concerns with enough functionality to attract users is proving to be tricky.

Driving the news: "Facebook has approached Netflix, Disney and other media companies about putting their streaming services on a new Facebook device for making video calls from televisions," The Information reports.

  • The device, due to launch this fall, would use the same video-calling technology that Facebook uses in its video camera smart speaker, Portal.
  • Facebook teased during Recode's Code Conference earlier this year that it aimed to expand the Portal line to include products with more features.

Meanwhile, Google's latest product, the Nest Hub Max, is just hitting the market. After forgoing a camera in the Home Hub that debuted last year, the new model adds one to enable home security and video chat.

  • At the same time, Amazon is exploring ways to put Alexa into even more devices, reportedly including a home robot.

Between the lines: So-called ambient computing — a computing connection that is a voice command away wherever you are — is often billed as the next big thing.

  • To the degree that searches move away from phones and computers, it's imperative for Google to be there, with Facebook and Amazon also seeing a benefit in owning whatever that next device is at the center of consumers' lives.

Yes, but: There's no evidence yet that Facebook's Portal has been a hot market item. And Google seems to be eager to increase usage of its line, giving away Home Minis to everyone from Golden State Warriors fans to those living with paralysis.

  • Amazon was first to the market with the Echo, and Alexa has dominated, capturing 35% of global smart speaker sales, which is projected to reach $23 billion by 2025, according to Allied Market Research.

What's next: Expect more hardware products and new categories from the tech giants, but also look for Amazon and Google to continue to encourage other hardware makers to incorporate their voice assistants into their products.

Be smart: It's unclear if what's holding consumers back from some of the more expensive, video-based smart speaker items is privacy concerns, price or just a lack of need. But for now, it seems that most consumer adoption has come from traditional speakers without fancy cameras or chat devices.

Expand chart
Data: Axios research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Go deeper: How Amazon will take over your house

Go deeper

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

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