It's been almost a year to date since GE Appliances unveiled the Kitchen Hub, a 27-inch touchscreen meant to dominate any food preparation area and combine everything from infotainment to smart home controls into a single uniform package. While the original implication was that the prototype will be commercialized at some point in 2018, it was seemingly delayed for unknown reasons, though it's still very much alive and well, as evidenced by the fact that the former unit of General Electric — now owned by Chinese Haier — once again returned to Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with an updated version of the Kitchen Hub that has some newer internals and also comes with a concrete release window, as well as an actual price range.
A $1,400 Android all-in-one
From a purely technical perspective, the GE Kitchen Hub is essentially an Android-powered all-in-one computer, though the actual firmware it's running is a custom implementation of Android called the U+ Connect. The actual version of Google's operating system used as the basis for the display's software is currently unclear and likely won't among top factors considered by GE's target audience. The company is planning to recommend a price in the range between $1,199 and $1,399, which is more than the vast majority of Android flagships cost but can hardly be compared to any existing product seeing how kitchen displays are a relatively new product category, so GE is certainly treading some new ground with its latest gadget. The high price tag is at least partially justified by the fact that the company is promising regular software updates to the Kitchen Hub but with no established track record in the segment to speak of, it remains to be seen whether it manages to deliver on that pledge. Regardless, the Kitchen Hub is being advertised as a "future-proof" device that will evolve alongside the technology that powers it, gradually receiving support for new smart devices — primarily appliances — and apps, in addition to having its existing functionalities ennobled and expanded.
No Google Assistant, no party
As is the case with the vast majority of smart home devices unveiled at CES 2019 so far, the GE Kitchen Hub offers Google Assistant integration, providing users with a comprehensive voice companion that can control their other connected devices, answer questions, help with food preparation, make grocery lists, sing songs, and perform a wide variety of other functions. GE also partnered with AI cooking company SideChef whose library of detailed recipes is available directly from the Kitchen Hub, with the device itself also supporting many popular Android apps such as Netflix and Spotify. While most contemporary smart displays relying on Google-made technologies are powered by Android Things, the full-fledged version of the world's most popular operating system also allows the Kitchen Hub to offer video calls. The display is meant to be installed on a cooktop and even sports a camera angled in a manner that's suitable for photographing one's finished meals in order to share them online.
As smart home hubs of all kinds live and die by their third-party support, it remains to be seen how successful GE will be at pitching its newly revised creation to consumers who don't own appliances from the Haier, Cafe, Monogram, or GE Profile range. On the other hand, many of those that do are bound to find this 27-inch display an interesting proposition once it hits the market this spring, especially given how it's currently a one-of-a-kind solution, at least as far as this particular form factor is concerned. One thing the Kitchen Hub is currently missing is support for Amazon's Alexa, which may be an issue in the long term, especially given how many industry leaders believe voice assistants are not a zero-sum game. Limiting consumer choice and forcing customers into any particular AI ecosystem is hence a decision that could easily backfire, though this particular trait of the Kitchen Hub may also be Google's fault as Alphabet's subsidiary has an established track record of playing hardball with smart device manufacturers unwilling to exclusively commit to its intelligent companion. Whether GE's attempt at making the full, tablet-like Android experience the center of one's kitchen and smart home succeeds remains to be seen, with the currently most likely scenario being that the Kitchen Hub profiles itself into a niche appliance for tech enthusiasts, at least initially.