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. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: privacy, privacy, privacy. I certainly do not want a device from Amazon inside my home that is always listening and converting anything I do with that device into a profit opportunity. Apple products offer a lot of value. And especially with devices like this I’m always going to choose the company that prioritizes my privacy.

    1. the problem is that tens of millions of consumers aren’t smart like you worrying about privacy, so Google, Facebook, Amazon’s strategies are succeeding.

      Because Amazon etc MONETIZE (i.e sell to advertisers) consumer’s info they are able to subsidize products like the Echo (make them cheap) and finance the R&D for A.I (i.e. these are SELF FINANCING — they just sell the stolen data — while Apple has to get cash from elsewhere like iPhones).

      Not to mention stealing data often makes their products ‘SMARTER’ (or seem to be) as they can build a database on the customer (they know the person’s habits, his way of speaking perhaps even his accent etc ). Just like real life human personal assistant is way more effective if he knows his boss inside out and can understand and anticipate his needs. Some time back some SIRI engineers quit due to Apple’s privacy policy, specifically they complained that apple flushing out private data after a short while from servers made it too hard.

      I’m not CONDONING what Amazon etc are doing, just pointing out the business advantages and that most people seem not really care about privacy

  2. The only thing I have to say is that Apple (Tim Cook) has really dropped the ball here. It has let down their loyal users and others that would be loyal users. I, like others, have friends using Alexa to do all sorts of good things in home security and management as well as Entertainment right now. I’ve held out but for not for much longer. VR maybe your thing Tim but home automation and entertainment is where most people are at and want. This whole thing reminds me of the “We made a mistake with the Macintosh” that we are just getting over with. Home Kit was a very good idea that has been just left to wander around due to lack of leadership and direction. Tim, another miscalculation on you and your management team. You have the money, the people, but lack the well and for-thought.

  3. If you want to share your info with Google Spy Program ™ then Alexa is excellent choice and if you want a retailer listen to your dinner conversations and your kids then the Echo is brilliant thing to have.

    These two companies are selling their products taking huge loss because the bigger money is you. They want to advertise things or sell stuff for you. That is where the money is.

  4. Hate to say it but Apple got beat bad by both alexa and google. I bought two google Home minis along with 4 Nest thermostats and am finding myself increasingly curious about google Assistant. The whole system is just so easy and responsive. It’s a joke that Nest isn’t compatible with HomeKit. For the first time in a long time I am a little embarrassed for Apple. They really do look like an island. It’s counter to the way they partnered with everyone on Airplay.

    1. Nest isn’t compatible with HomeKit because Google bought the company… not because it can’t be. I bought into Nest BEFORE Google bought it and haven’t replaced it ONLY because I’ll just wait until it dies. 🙂 I have taken steps to limit the information it shares, though.

      Meanwhile, my Belkin light switches and power outlets will soon be connected through HomeKit leaving the Nest stuff the only thing that’s not in HomeKit.

  5. And stop whining about Tim Cook. He is the best CEO on the planet. With HomePod there has been delay because of the deal with Shazam and then there is bigger problem with Meltdown and Spectre. HomePod can´t be vulnarable with these because it is always on. They have iron out those. Plus manufacturing these things in tens of millions is not easy task to do. Apple do not delay anything without a reason. It also does not hurt them. Apple is always “late” to the market and then they just blow everybody out of the water.

  6. MDN has led this website into a judgmental, self righteous, condescending peanut gallery.

    Your mostly unfounded criticisms of Tim Cook in face of Apple’s overall success, without offering any meaningful solutions other than off with his head speaks volumes.

    MDN’s diatribes only speak of its own one sided harsh and negative judgements, not balanced, not balanced.

    I’m sure Apple’s success will continue for decades to come in spite of the naysayers.

  7. Actually… I would LOVE to use Siri daily, I actually did for quite some time. What happened over the last year or so is this…

    When Apple secretly slowed down my iPhone 6+ because of it’s aging battery, Siri stopped working for me. Every time I’d hold down the home button to speak, there would be a multi-second delay before it would actually start listening. Previously I could hold that button and begin speaking almost immediately. Lately I hold the button, and wait… and wait… until the little listening line starts to wiggle from background noise, THEN I can speak, after maybe 5 or 6 seconds, sometimes as many as 10. But here’s the thing… there’s ALSO a timer in there somewhere that times out if you don’t say anything for a while. Guess what, it doesn’t account for the startup delay, so now with my 600MHz iPhone (I checked) it actually times out BEFORE it starts listening.

    How many millions of affected iPhone users stopped using Siri in the last year? Not that Apple would ever admit it, but I bet there’s a noticeable drop in Siri usage. Of course knowing Apple… instead of looking inward and asking why, they’ll probably assume the voice thing is a fad and people aren’t really using it much. By the time they figure out what’s going on, it’s too late and people have given up on their products.

    Mistakes tend to domino like that. Though I’ve heard the phrase plenty of times, I’d LOVE to see Apple “firing on all cylinders”.

    1. Whatever drop in Siri usage there is is likely offset by NEWER devices (these are selling in the 10s of millions, remember?) that begin and continue to use Siri. Then, there are those that upgrade yearly and never stopped using Siri.

      The most difficult job for Siri is Apple’s (laudable) desire to do all the recognition on the device, not sending any of your personal audio through the cloud. I don’t know how successful they will be when all of the competition is using the power of the cloud to do SO much more. Perhaps they should even offer an option where they’ll do your voice recognition in the cloud AND sell your data to pay for the cloud infrastructure.

  8. I’m not really interested in Siri as a voice controlled assistant. I’m more interested in a centralized home control and security system.

    About a month ago I was in our local Apple store, and asked one of the blue shirts to tell me about HomeKit. What works with it, what options do I have, etc. He went through the demo in the store, very impressive if you want automated window shades, I guess.

    Anyway, when it came time to start looking for actual hardware to use with HomeKit, the selection seemed thin. And expensive, if you buy from Apple. Then I started reading online articles about how good HomeKit was, and I mostly found stories of frustration and failure.

    Anyone here use HomeKit for door locks, window sensors, and thermostats that can recommend a brand? For consistency’s sake I’d like to use a common brand if possible.

  9. If Alexa was an Apple product, for the last few months the news and net would have been absolutely flooded with negative stories about Apple listening in on your living room an invading your privacy, and btw the competition will soon be coming out with something cheaper and better.

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