“Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant, according to people familiar with the matter,” Mark Gurman and Ian King report for Bloomberg. “Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects. Like Amazon Inc.’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said.”

“If a product reaches the market, it would be Apple’s most significant piece of new hardware since the company announced the Apple Watch in 2014,” Gurman and King report. “Echo has been a surprise hit, even to Apple engineers working on their competing project, and is already being baked into smart-home systems made by a range of companies.”

“The company is attempting to differentiate itself from Echo and Google Home with more advanced microphone and speaker technology, two people said. Some of the prototypes in testing include facial recognition sensors, another person said,” Gurman and King report. “Apple began showing its interest in the smart-home field with the launch of HomeKit in 2014, which allows third-party smart-home accessory makers to integrate with Siri. That same year, Apple began testing early versions of Siri-driven speakers with proprietary surround sound technology. The company worked on two versions, a larger and a smaller model similar to Amazon’s current line-up, and even set up a small home theater to test prototypes.”

MacDailyNews Note: Amazon released the Echo on November 6, 2014.

Amazon recently introduced a smaller version of its Echo, the Echo Dot for $49.99. It is meant to be placed throughout the home. Via the code DOT6PACK , Amazon sells six units for the price of five or, with DOT12PACK, 12 for the price of ten. The flagship Amazon Echo costs $179.99.

“Beyond the home device, Apple is researching new ways to improve Siri on iPhones and iPads, two people said,” Gurman and King report. “With an initiative code-named ‘Invisible Hand,’ Apple hopes to give users the ability to fully control their devices through a Siri command system within three years, one of the people added. ”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s Echo echo.

As we wrote in March:

Something along the lines of Amazon Echo is what Apple should have done if run by competent, forward-thinking management. When Apple finally does do their version of Amazon Echo (and they will get around to doing such a product eventually) they will rightly be called a follower. The company had all of the ingredients to make their own Echo, before Amazon, except for the vision, it seems.

And, as we wrote on June 15th:

There could be a psychological component to this that leads people use Alexa over Siri precisely because they know the Echo is there (it’s a physical object), but forget about Siri being everywhere, even on their wrists (because Siri is embedded inside devices that are “for other things” in the user’s mind (telling time, watching TV, computing, phone calls, etc.) and therefore “hidden” to the user. Hence, Siri gets forgotten and goes unused while people use Alexa…

Again: We believe people use Alexa because Amazon Echo is a physical manifestation of “her,” while forgetting about Siri even though she’s on their wrists at all times and/or in their iPhones and iPads because Siri is hidden inside objects whose primary function is something other than “personal assistant” in people’s minds (watch, TV, phone or tablet, as opposed to “Siri.”) Alexa is present thanks to the Amazon Echo. Siri is absent because she has no such counterpart; no physical manifestation.

Siri is a ghost. Alexa is that cool, fun, glowing tube right there on the counter.

Apple would do well to not discount the psychology behind why people use certain features, even though cold, hard logic tells them it’s a redundant and unnecessary product.

An “Apple Echo” device would sell in the millions of units per quarter and boost Siri usage immensely.

SEE ALSO:
Why an ‘Apple Echo’ would be a hit – June 15, 2016
New Apple TV to take on Amazon’s Echo, source says – May 26, 2016
Apple preps Amazon Echo rival, opening up Siri – May 24, 2016
Apple should make a stationary voice command device like Amazon’s Echo – May 19, 2016
Google unveils its Amazon Echo knockoff called ‘Google Home’ – May 18, 2016
Where’s Apple’s answer to Amazon Echo? – March 31, 2016
Amazon Echo leads mindshare in smart home platform war – February 29, 2016