JBL’s $250 Google Assistant smart display is now available for pre-order

It’s been a week since Lenovo’s Google Assistant-powered smart display went on sale. Slowly but surely, its competitors are launching their versions, too. Today, JBL announced that its $249.95 JBL Link View is now available for pre-order, with an expected ship date of September 3, 2018.

JBL went for a slightly different design than Lenovo (and the upcoming LG WK9), but in terms of functionality, these devices are pretty much the same. The Link View features an 8-inch HD screen; unlike Lenovo’s Smart Display, JBL is not making a larger 10-inch version. It’s got two 10W speakers and the usual support for Bluetooth, as well as Google’s Chromecast protocol.

JBL says the unit is splash proof (IPX4), so you can safely use it to watch YouTube recipe videos in your kitchen. It also offers a 5MP front-facing camera for your video chats and a privacy switch that lets you shut off the camera and microphone.

JBL, Lenovo and LG all announced their Google Assistant smart displays at CES earlier this. Lenovo was the first to actually ship a product, and both the hardware as well as Google’s software received a positive reception. There’s no word on when LG’s WK9 will hit the market.

Google Home and Chromecast are down, affecting users worldwide

It’s not just Slack — there’s a Google Home and Chromecast outage, too. A Google spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that there’s an issue affecting “some” of its customers of these platforms, and it’s currently investigating the issue and working on a solution. The company declined to share other information about the nature of the outage or how many customers were without access.

It’s not unusual for cloud services to go down at times due to software issues or data center problems, but it can be difficult for users to get information when such an event occurs. Even when the service provider offers an online health dashboard, they aren’t immediately updated when issues are occurring.

In the case of Chromecast, users on the Chromecast Product Forum noticed the problem in the wee hours of the morning today — noting that the Chromecast icon disappeared from streaming apps like Netflix, HBO and YouTube. The problems were reported around the world, and those who were able to reach support channels were told it’s a global issue, they said.

Google would not confirm if the issue was related to a broken software patch, though that’s being reported on Twitter.

The @madebyGoogle Twitter account is responding to some incoming customer complaints with apologies, but little other info on the cause or timeframe to a resolution.

The issue is also bricking Google Home devices, many have noticed. The Google Home Help Forums are filled with similar complaints about the outage, also from users worldwide.

We’ve confirmed this here ourselves with our own Google Home Mini.

Saying “Hey Google” will have the device immediately answer “there was a glitch, try again in a few seconds” or “sorry, something went wrong, try again in a few seconds.”

A Google spokesperson has offered the following comment:

“We’re aware of an issue affecting some Google Home and Chromecast users. We’re investigating the issue and working on a solution.”

Update, 6/27/18, 3:41 PM ET: Google says the team is still heads down on the problem.

More to come….