Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Will Apple's HomePod Be a Home Run?

Will Apple's HomePod Be a Home Run?

Apple is positioning HomePod more as an audio device than a smart home interface, said Jonathan Collins, a research director at ABI Research.

Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats. Siri can be activated using the command "Hey, Siri".

Apple seems to be aware that it is late to the smart speaker party, almost two years after Amazon debuted the Echo and several months after the release of the Google Home.

"We really believe it's going to take your home music experience to the next level", Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event.

Apple opted for an A8 chip to give the speaker its smarts, the same processor that powered the iPhone 6. But since then, ongoing development at the company has been comparatively moribund in contrast to the lightning-fast technology evolution from competitors like Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana.

Notably, the new software includes new artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality features.

Without any unexpected delays, the HomePod will hit the market by December.

Analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight said these updates could be vital to Apple and the HomePod's success.

However, a recent statement from an Amazon exec holds that the HomePod is not such a big threat to the Echo family, as the products are "different philosophically" and should appeal to different tastes and needs.

A smart speaker is primarily used to stream music and news, set timers and reminders, manage shopping lists, and control connected-home devices like lights or thermostats. But the product seems directly inspired by existing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. During Jobs' last decade, Apple introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad - all huge commercial successes that both reshaped daily life and swamped previous digital music players, smartphones and tablets. While he didn't discuss exactly how the devices differ, he told USA Today that the HomePod's $349 price tag makes it substantially more expensive than his company's alternatives, including the popular Amazon Echo. Compared to the Amazon Echo, which has thousands of third-party application features, and Google Home that is catching up. Amazon has started to bring Alexa to smartphones, too. So the question is whether you want one-speaker simplicity, or a more piecemeal, versatile setup. But Google and Apple don't offer a budget option at all.

In line with Apple's M.O. the HomePod tries to keep everything in the family which explains the lack of support for anything outside of Siri and Apple Music.

Platforms need developers, and we've seen over and over that the tech world is capable of supporting two-not three-platforms in most areas.

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