“HomePod, which finally starts shipping this week, was delayed for several months,” Lisa Eadicicco writes for TIME Magazine. “That’s an eon in the fast-moving gadget world, and much has changed since Apple first revealed the device.”

“There are now several other smart speakers with high-end audio quality on the market, including Google’s Home Max, which uses the Google Assistant, and the Sonos One, which has Amazon Alexa and is set to get Google’s software later this year,” Eadicicco writes. “Like the HomePod, both devices aim to provide audiophile-worthy sound quality along with a voice-activated assistant, making it tougher for the HomePod to stand out. Other third-party companies that specialize in high-end audio gear, like Altec Lansing and Bang & Olufsen, also have plans to release new Google Assistant-enabled speakers.”

“Early indications overall suggest that, while the HomePod may sound great, it comes up short in the software department,” Eadicicco writes. “That could be a big problem for an expensive device that’s entering a crowded market with plenty of options… HomePod faces a challenge that few of Apple’s previous category-defining hits had to overcome. Tablets and smartwatches, for instance, weren’t very popular with mainstream consumers before the iPad and Apple Watch came out. But, thanks largely to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, 39 million Americans already own a smart speaker, according to research from NPR and Edison Research. They have permeated pop culture, too, with Alexa appearances in a South Park episode and a Saturday Night Live spoof. That means it’s too late for Apple to create or define this gadget category the way it so often does. With the HomePod, the company will have to prove that it can compete in a game for which somebody else wrote the rules.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: HomePod is not for Joe or Jane Sixpack. HomePod is for Apple iPhone and/or iPad owners, and especially those who are Apple Music members. Reviewing HomePod as if it’s a generic “smart speaker” meant for sale to the general public is a misreading of the product and its intended target market: iOS device owners who subscribe to Apple Music, a target market of 36 million users worldwide that is growing by millions per quarter.

HomePod is not meant for Joe Schmo with his pretend BOGOF iPhone cobbled together by a South Korean dishwasher maker running an insecure, privacy-trampling OS from a search engine/online ad firm who listens to music via ad-laden free tiers from Spotify and Pandora.

Apple will sell millions of HomePod units to high-value customers, the cream of the crop (i.e. those with disposable income and the will to spend it).