Apple HomePod takes on Amazon Echo

“For months we’ve heard rumors of a Siri-powered rival to the Amazon Echo,” Megan Wollerton writes for CNET. “At Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, it finally happened. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, just debuted the HomePod on stage during the WWDC keynote address.”

“We’re excited Apple’s speaker is here, but it’s also been a long time coming,” Wollerton writes. “Apple announced its software platform, HomeKit, at WWDC 2014. A few months later, Amazon began selling the Echo — a $180 plug-in Wi-Fi voice-controlled speaker that answers to the wake word, ‘Alexa.'”

“HomeKit, by comparison, has lived exclusively in iOS devices for three years, without a companion piece of hardware to call home. That means anyone without an iPhone or iPad was automatically excluded from HomeKit,” Wollerton writes. “A standalone Siri speaker should make HomeKit much more accessible to Android customers, children and other family members who’d rather not use an iPhone to ask Siri a question.”


 
Wollerton writes, “The question now is whether Apple’s Siri speaker will be enough to compete with Amazon and Google at this late stage. ”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Don’t be ridiculous. It’s not “late stage.” It’s embryonic. Apple’s HomePod will quickly own the premium (read: wildly profitable) end of the nascent smart speaker market.

SEE ALSO:
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017

25 Comments

  1. “…late stage.” What’s this guy smoking. There’s so much upside potential for this market segment left, nobody has even captured a fraction of the market for these kinds of devices.

    1. It is early days. So early, no one knows what HomeKit is, or what to do with it. It’s a foundational technology with no killer app. If a “smart speaker” is the interface that will finally unlock the potential of HomeKit, more power to it. I have no doubt it will be a fairly well-selling device.

      I’m just worried it seems like Apple doesn’t have a plan. If the future of home automation is the “smart speaker” why did they have to back into this space? They’re not even a “fast follower”, with this device / interaction model they’re just a “follower”.

      If this interaction model really is the future, it also raises huge issues for Apple’s product universe (particularly their OSs and cloud offerings). A home-based “smart speaker” is by nature a shared computing resource and interface. Apple for the last 15+ years has been about getting more and more personal. I don’t think these things mesh yet. Apple is clearly smart enough to know that, but will they make the investment in foundational changes to their product landscape to accommodate this new personal/shared duality?

  2. My biggest concern is that the unit will pick up a lot of dust and be difficult to clean. Looks great now but in 6 months all the gaps will be full of dust.

    1. The white one will attract the dirty hands of every little kid that passes by it. And, like you said, it will prove a dust magnet. With air flowing in and out of the grille, dust will collect and I have no doubt Apple will seal the device so you will not be able to clean it.

  3. Shame there isn’t a speaker-less version for use in rooms that might have a quality speaker system. Even if you can plat it in other rooms its then a lot of money for speakers you won’t use. An Apple TV with the Siri microphones and maybe a basic speaker for response built in would be a good option especially for multi-room systems.

    1. I was just having this very thought: I’ve got 5.1 surround sound in my living room- I don’t need a $350 speaker just to use Siri or control my home. Apple should make a $100 Siri Speaker (or, even better, a $100 speaker-less Siri microphone/camera that connects to my stereo & TV) for those of us with real sound systems…

    2. You are right, but this is a very tiny segment of the market. Very few people buy stereos or home theatres these days. I had no idea this was the case until someone showed me some research, where it is clear that the only people with some sort of stereo/home theatre setup are men over 50, with a family, and even among them, that number is rapidly dwindling. You go to Best Buy, and you’ll see that the offerings are confined to one single shelf (whereas they used to be rows upon rows of home theatre receivers and packages, some 15 years ago). A single “sound bar” under the TV seems to be as far as most people go these days.

      Surround sound, as home audio technology, never seems to have caught the mainstream, even though all the HDTV programming, and literally every Blu-ray (even DVD) movie is encoded in 5+1 surround sound, and has been for almost decades. Other than men in 50s, who tend to build their home theatres in their basements, people don’t really seem to care much for the elaborate speaker setups. In my family, the surround speakers have for long been sitting in the storage; most of TV watching happens at night, with kids asleep, with very low volume (and closed-captioning turned on), so the surround was never really used, even while it was new.

      I’m pretty sure this HomePod device will be quite popular. Perhaps not Steve Jobs-era popular, but likely better than Apple Watch, and that says a lot.

      1. Guess I’m an exception. I’ve had surround speakers for the living room setup for decades, and I’m not yet 50. Though I’ll admit I haven’t yet bought a sub or center channel speaker.

        1. I built my current home when I was 36. I had surround sound speakers installed in the walls and ceiling. I guess I’m in touch with my inner 50 year old self early! That being said, I own a Mac, iPhones, iPads, AppleTVs and AppleWatches for myself and my wife. HomePod will definitely be ours too.

    3. I have AirPlay speakers set up all over my house. I also have an iPhone that can respond to “Hey, Siri” from across the room.

      So, a product like this isn’t something I would need. And I’m guessing something you won’t need either.

  4. i think Apple missed the mark on this–it can’t decide whether it wants to be a speaker or a digital assistant. And $350? You can get two really excellent stereo speakers for that price. If you want stereo sound with this device you have to fork out another $350.

    I want something which integrates into my surround sound system or even replaces it.

    I imagined another solution: have a Master unit which can be synced with up to 6 other (cheaper) slave units forming a full 7.0 wireless surround sound system. In true Apple style it would auto configure itself and auto EQ itself. The slave units could each have a mic tied into to the master unit but wouldn’t require a processor, providing full room coverage no matter which way you were facing. Apple could also sell a wireless sub unit which integrates into the whole setup.

    1. That market segment is extremely minuscule. Surround sound and home theatre (and even stereo audio) have rapidly lost their popularity to various “sound bars” (a narrow, wide speaker that sits under/in front of the HDTV) or portable bluetooth “pills” or “bricks”. While some of these devices may be “stereo” (in that they have two discrete speakers that play L / R channels), to call them “stereo speakers” is a bit pointless, since the L / R speakers are barely inches apart, so unless you’re listening to the music with the device practically in your face, there is literally no stereo spatial audio image to speak of. The speakers in HomePod are just as far apart, but Apple won’t be calling HomePod a “stereo” speaker.

      While literally all commercially recorded music is produced in 2-channel stereo, and virtually all commercially produced films are mixed in various flavours of surround sound, a rapidly decreasing percentage of general population is truly interested in having devices that can play back true stereo (you know, speakers at the same distance from each other as from the listener) or surround sound (with rear speaker set up and subwoofer).

      I think Apple is recognising this trend and has designed a device that will meet the demands of the broadest segment of the audience.

      Of course, there will always be hobbyists who will make effort and take time to build a great surround sound home theatre, and for them, this device will be of little use.

      1. Very True. I love my Bose ‘soundbar’ Amazing what they can do with delay to make it sound like a 5.1 system. Also, love my echo dot which is paired by BT to my Bose portable speaker, which sounds just badass.

  5. Wait for Apple’s overpriced product chained to Apple Music and Siri or buy an Amazon Dot ($49 or 3 for $130) and use any speaker(s) you want today.

    Prime example of what you are waiting for:
    Yesterday while driving, I asked Siri to play the Hughes Corporation (Rock the Boat) and it instead brought up directions for the Hughes Corporation in Texas- and I was hell and gone from Texas. That is not the only time that Siri leaves a lot to be desired. I have asked it to play music only to have it tell me it cannot play movies in the car (Thanks for that info, Siri).

    The potential for a speaker with the proper privacy precautions is great, but if it is tied to Apple Music (as in not accepting by local iTunes library or iTunes Match) the answer is not only no- it is hell, no. Not renting low quality 128 bit rate Lossy when I gave Apple Lossless on my local network.

  6. Look, I’ll be the first to admit I love Apple and their products… been using them since (gasp) 1987 but I have to agree with many that have quality speakers already installed in my living spaces, surround sound systems and Sonos. I just purchased an Echo Dot for $40 on sale. Love using it to control thing around the house and my family loves asking it questions. So to spend $350 for one speaker/smart assistant, not for me. Maybe others will see the need. I would definitely consider a stand alone Siri assistant though if priced right.

  7. It’s a small speaker. Small speakers always sound like small speakers, just like small TVs always look like small TVs. I’m sure it’s an excellent small lifestyle speaker (with a myriad of fancy computer manipulation of the original recordings, sort of like a small TV that automatically turns up the saturation and adds smoothing techniques to the frame rate).

    But the proper stereo loudspeaker setup has already been basically tapped out. Today you can buy very fine speakers and a good amp and an old iPad and basically have everything you need for HiFi, with all the conviences of modern streaming libraries.

    And yet, almost no one does this. One problem is, since stereo speakers point in one direction, they sound best in one part of the room where you sit. Most contemporary pop music is not produced to just sound good on a proper stereo HiFi setup. It needs to sound loud (meaning dynamically compressed) on all platforms. Laptop speakers, iphone speakers, earbuds, car radios, ceiling mounted speakers in stores, and lifestyle speakers.

    So no, the HomePod will not produce as accurate a depiction of prior recording artists’ original intent for music as is desired by people that own HiFi systems (audiophile types) but it will make sound that competes fairly with Sonos and Bose lifestyle speakers.

    The siri implementation of this is going to be annoying though. I don’t like talking to Siri about music, and it’s not because it makes mistakes with voice recognition. I want to see with my eyes and read what I want to listen to. I like to see the whole album to decide which song, I like flipping through different albums. I find “play a song by this one artist” to be very unsatisfying. If I’m home then what’s the harm with using the phone in my pocket to pick a song. Is this really a limiting factor for people?

    Siri can be useful for certain things when you’re out and about “what is this song” is easier than finding the Shazam app and tapping the listen button. “Get me directions home” is easier than opening up Maps and selecting Home from bookmarks. “Call Mom” etc.. But if you’re already home, how is Siri helping with your music useful? “What’s the name of the drummer on this track” I guess that’s easier than typing, but wouldn’t you rather look up an article about the drummer, maybe an interview, rather than just hear Siri interrupt your music to say their name?

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