Alexa is killing Siri at CES 2018, and HomePod, if it ever ships, isn’t going to make a difference

“While you’ll find iOS accessories and iPhone X cases if you’re looking for them, the news coming out of CES floor is dominated by smart home gadgets and connectivity,” Michael Simon writes or Macworld. “From showers to speakers and everything in between, CES is all about making the dumb things in your home smart. And more often than not, Alexa is the way you’ll control them.”

“Amazon’s early bet on the smart home has paid off in a big way, and its full-on press with its family of Alexa-powered devices has created a platform dedicated to controlling the gadgets around our home,” Simon writes. “And no matter how much better the audio from the HomePod sounds than an Echo, it won’t do much to close the gap.”

“When Siri launched in beta form back in 2011, our reactions were, as Scott Forestall put it at the time, ‘it blows me away,'” Simon writes. “Seven years later, that vision is nearly here, except it’s not Siri that’s doing the answering, it’s Alexa. Unless I’m doing something directly on my iPhone such as setting an alarm or playing a song, I’m asking my Echo instead of Siri. When I was setting up my smart home, I tried Siri and Google Assistant along with Alexa, and Amazon’s solution was the far superior one…”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If Apple truly gets outflanked by Amazon in IoT and home automation, history will not be kind to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Now, listen, when it finally ships, HomePod will take the high end of the smart speaker market, however large or small that may be. Its seamless integration into the Apple ecosystem will make it the go-to smart speaker for the very best customers – those with strong, coveted demographics (disposable income and the proven will to spend it). We’ll see if Apple can establish a beachhead and move down into the mid-market with Siri devices going forward. However, doing so would require some timeliness on Apple’s part which has not proven to be among the company’s strong points in recent years.

Yes, we’ve been writing about Siri, Alexa, Apple, Amazon, Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Echo and echoes of Echo for years. A compendium for your perusal:

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook
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.MacDailyNews, March 29, 2016

As for the HomePod delay into 2018, missing this Christmas, [Apple SVP] Schiller said: “We feel bad we aren’t able to deliver Homepod for the holidays. We’re going to take the time to do it right and make sure it’s great when it comes out. We need more time to make it right.”

You know what? A company with $250+ billion liquid should be able to get the job done right and on time, especially for a product they announced in June. It’s a speaker, not a rocket ship, Phil. Lame marketing pablum doesn’t cover ineptitude. The time to do it right and make sure it’s great was all of the time before October when it should have been shipping at the latest.

There’s nothing like digging yourself an unnecessary hole two years late, huh, Phil? No wonder you feel bad. You ought to be mad.MacDailyNews, December 8, 2017

Why is Apple so late to the smart speaker market? Visionary CEO vs. caretaker CEO, that’s why.

“Oh, but Tim Cook has made Apple the world’s richest company! The stock price is near record highs!” some might say. And that’s true enough.

Others might say, “Let’s be honest, Steve Ballmer could’ve generated the same kind of money running Apple Inc. given the massive momentum Steve Jobs handed over at his death. Sometimes, in fact, it looks like Steve Ballmer is running Apple. Although, no, it doesn’t really, because even Ballmer would have updated the Mac Pro by now, made sure he had enough Apple Watches ready so as not to pretty much totally kill launch momentum, had enough Apple Pencils and Smart Keyboards on hand for the iPad Pro launch, enough AirPods at launch, etc. Even Monkey Boy would have had an Amazon Echo knockoff on the market for Christmas 2016, at the latest, too. Not missing Christmas 2017. Deny it if you must, but you know it’s true.”

Listen, Tim Cook has some very admirable qualities. For just one example, his stance on privacy is important and unparalleled. We’re not sure we’d have such privacy with any other CEO this side of Edward Snowden. (Of course, Cook’s ability to make that a selling point is in question as the near total lack of privacy doesn’t seem to dissuade literally billions of people from surrendering it daily to FaceBook and Google.) His commitment to clean, renewable energy is another.

Still, after this latest delay, missing Christmas with HomePod, thereby ensuring millions more Amazon Echo and Google Home units find their way under Christmas trees this year and all of the ancillary negative offshoots of that (Spotify rather than Apple Music subscriptions, for example), we’re left wondering:

How much would Apple Inc. be worth today had a Jeff Bezos-type CEO taken over the reins instead?MacDailyNews, November 21, 2017

Missing one Christmas might not seem like a lot, but every user lost to another ecosystem is much, much more difficult to convert into a customer when you finally get your ass in gear and ship.

And, under the tree this year, there will be millions upon millions getting Amazon Echo and Google Home products and into their ecosystems*, not Apple’s.

*And other services, like Spotify instead of Apple Music, for one prominent example.

Apple really screwed the pooch on this one.

“Real artists ship.” – Steve JobsMacDailyNews, November 20, 2017

This wouldn’t have happened this way under Steve Jobs.

The HomePod’s internal code name ought to be “Clusterfsck,” but that’s already been taken by the Mac Pro.

Steve Jobs could see the whole picture and into the future. He would inherently know how to use Siri to tie together Wi-Fi connectivity, home automation, Bluetooth, Apple TV, sound reproduction, Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, etc. and he’d direct his staff to work towards the goal(s) he defined. When you lose your visionary CEO and replace him with a caretaker CEO, this is the type of aimless, late, bureaucratic dithering that ensues.MacDailyNews, November 21, 2017

Luckily for Tim Cook, Steve Jobs left him a perpetual profit machine that can absorb pretty much any lackadaisical fsckatude that can be thrown into the spokes.

We can almost see the smiles of the Amazon Echo and Google Home execs from here. — MacDailyNews, November 17, 2017

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.MacDailyNews, June 15, 2016

SEE ALSO:
Apple product delays have more than doubled under CEO Tim Cook – January 5, 2018
At Tim Cook’s Apple, Steve Jobs is long gone, and so is the ‘it just works’ ethos – December 19, 2017
Echo Dot was Amazon’s Black Friday – Cyber Monday bestseller as Apple’s delayed HomePod waits for 2018 release date – November 28, 2017
Apple’s late, delayed, limited HomePod is looking more and more like something I don’t want – November 27, 2017
Why Apple’s HomePod is three years behind Amazon’s Echo – November 21, 2017
Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple – November 20, 2017
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook: The ‘operations genius’ who never has enough products to sell at launch – October 23, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017
Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company – April 6, 2017
Apple is misplaying the hand Steve Jobs left them – November 30, 2016
Apple delays AirPod rollout – October 26, 2016
Apple delays release of watchOS 2 due to bug – September 16, 2015
Apple delays HomeKit launch until autumn – May 14, 2015
Apple delays production of 12.9-inch ‘iPad Pro’ in face of overwhelming iPhone 6/Plus demand – October 9, 2014
Tim Cook’s mea culpa: iMac launch should have been postponed – April 24, 2013

49 Comments

  1. Give Apple a break.

    They can only do a couple of things at one time.

    They don’t have the manpower or capital.

    Plus everything has to go through one of only a couple of VPs who earn millions and seem to have lost the hunger and drive of the old Apple days.

    1. what do you mean by “don’t have the capital” Apple has more capital than almost any company in the whole world. Apple should be able to do more than a couple of things at one time.

    2. No. No more. Yes, It is still supperrior to the alternative, but with each new update I wonder: Will it come back to life?
      Last update to the iPhone: Photos setting changed without my action to iCloud. Resulting in not being able to transfer files from the device to Photos on my Mac. I spent half a day in total figuring it out. It just works? With my / our experience it is sometimes a challenge, so NO, it no longer just works. It requires Microsoftian logic these days!

  2. When a bunch of beer-swilling bloggers can clearly see what needs to be done years before Apple can manage to ship a product, something’s broken at Apple. A fish rots from the head down.

  3. It easily gets lost in that quite long MDN take, and it is worth pulling it out and repeating it:

    “Real artists ship.”
    (Steve Jobs)

    In his exceptional economy with words, Jobs distilled the essence of the difference between all those who promise, announce, demo, and those who actually sell stuff.

  4. “And more often than not, Alexa is ONE way you’ll control them.”
    I fix that for him, because everything I’ve seen has HomeKit, Google and Alexa integration.

    One day, Will look at tens of millions of heavily discounted smart home speakers being sold and think “how quaint“. That’s about the time when HomePod will be sitting quietly in the corner waiting for a command and both Google and Alexa will be surveilling and spouting random ad phrases every now and then 🙂

  5. I wouldn’t use products at CES as a true sign of anything, so many tend to be rubbish or never released. The broader point is valid though, Alexa is becoming synonymous with home automation as it can do a lot and is available at a variety of price points to allow everyone to get it and to suit all usage scenarios. Personally, Siri is fine for me because I feel that a lot of the voice interaction functionality is gimicky and I don’t need it. I’m not everybody though, and even if usage is over hyped (like a lot of amazon stuff is), it’s not complete nonsense. Homepod could be great, but even if it had shipped on time I think it’s overkill for a lot of people and environments. Since a lot of home automation is becoming synonymous with voice control Apple need to have more ways for people to speak to their home. Not every person has an iPhone/Apple watch. They’re not in every room in a house, guests might not have access. Apple should add Hey Siri (without a button) to Apple TV, airport express, or some similar device to allow whole house coverage. It doesn’t need to have all the skills of Alexa, but they need to get it in people’s homes. They need people to be part of their ecosystem. With iPhone they can afford to not get involved in the low end of the market, but this is different, it’s almost a loss leader.

    1. It’s ironic in a way that echo is a plan B from the failure of their phone efforts. If Apple had seen the light an actual physical HomePod wouldn’t really need to be a core product, one would have expected that (Indeed it was foreseen by others at least) all iOS products would have seamlessly worked with HomeKit the moment you entered the appropriate environment and in the case of AppleTV and AirPlay actually already resided there ready to do the job. Speakers are really a filler product to get people into the concept, make it familiar through a physical entity and more ubiquous in a multi use environment.

      But of course Apple seems incapable of actually advancing concepts these days even when they have all the ingredients, technology and even outsiders telling them what should be done as they did with home speakers. Hell how painfull is it to watch Samsung make their phones work with monitors as mini computers in the hone with no inherent experience in so doing while the company that boasts about controlling the whole widget and associate OS platform is a massive advantage not to mention chips that are sorely under exploited, stands by and ignores the potential of the concept of true Mac/iOS integration … at least till it sees some monetary gain to its coffers. Problem is it no longer thinks laterally enough to see how that can be achieved which brings us back to the missed opportunity in home speakers, or indeed music streaming.

  6. All might be forgiven if Apple’s home solution blows away the competition but then why do I not feel confident?

    I believe the Mac Pro and other debacles have shown us this ship is pretty rudderless, with no one in the overview seat. My guess is they’re too busy looking at their personal fortune spreadsheets and giggling with delight. It’s a sad day when even the faithful start to question what’s going on.

    1. “It’s a sad day when even the faithful start to question what’s going on.” My guess is you’re referring to recent (2017/2018) events.

      There are those of us who have been using (and preferring) Apple equipment since the late 70s. Many of us started questioning Apple’s focus in 1992, then eagerly worked through the rebirth in the late 90s.

      We’ve been actively questioning Apple’s focus and goal for a few years now.

      Almost every day, Cook seems more and more like Sculley 2.0.

      1. Well even the most “diehardiest” of us are losing confidence. For me it’s the Mac Pro debacle, a machine I’ve been waiting to upgrade for 2 YEARS. But MY Mac Pro sure wasn’t and isn’t the 2013 one. That was a design contemptuous of pros.

      2. Anyone still “questioning” what’s going on is because they want to ignore the VOLUMES of data that has spelled it out, fairly clearly, ever since Steve started using “PostPC”. iOS and devices services that support iOS are where Apple has been headed and it’s been a pretty straight-as-an-arrow line.

        If you are into producing products and content for iOS, you’re in the right place. If you want to have a rack mounted, high RAM, high CPU, powerful GFX… etc. etc. etc…. Apple is not the vendor you should be focused on. The folks I helped to switch over years ago THOUGHT they’d regret their decision over time. But, every time they need more power, they go get it (usually from Amazon and usually overnight). They don’t have to wait to see what Apple is going to do and, for them, it was the right decision.

    2. Apple’s home solution does not need to “blow away the competition”. There’s only ONE thing the HomePod needs to do to become the leader in it’s category.

      Exist.

      Apple’s TRYING to kill the Mac Pro, and they’re doing a good job of it. The quicker they can get rid of it, the quicker they can put ALL their focus in PostPC…. so that’s not really a good comparison.

  7. All I know is that piece of junque, Siri, has been utterly useless for me. It never, and I mean never gets anything right. That fish rotting from head statement seems true in Apple’s case in past few years, i.e., since Steve died.

  8. Apple has placed all of it’s stock in the iPhone and allowed practically all products and new products to suffer. Apple should change their name back to Apple Computers or to Apple Communications.

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