How Apple is positioning the HomePod and why

“From the very beginning, Apple has positioned HomePod as a high-quality-sound speaker. Even on stage, back in June, Phil Schiller said HomePod was going to be as important to the home music experience as iPod was to the personal music experience,” Carolina Milanesi writes for Tech.pinions. “This makes it compete more with the likes of Sonos than Amazon Echo.”

“When talking about the smarts of the device, it is its audio innovation and software that are highlighted rather than smart home connectivity and digital assistant support. Even when it comes to Siri, it is her augmented knowledge about music that is first mentioned,” Milanesi writes. “All indeed points to Apple making HomePod a music device for the home, not a catch-all smart speaker like Amazon and Google’s… Music has never been a hobby for Apple, quite the opposite. And this is why I see HomePod as an essential product for Apple.”

“If I am right and HomePod will be a music-first kind of device, I also start to wonder whether or not Apple believes in ambient computing,” Milanesi writes. “I certainly think, Apple believes in giving people options when it comes to how they interact with Siri, but they might not believe that smart home interactions and the value of an assistant can only be channeled through voice. This might explain why Siri’s skills and HomeKit’s support are not added at the same pace as we have seen with Amazon and Google.”

Read more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Get your HomePod(s) for music and be pleasantly surprised with how much more it can do!

SEE ALSO:
How I got talked into buying an Apple HomePod despite my reservations – January 24, 2018
Tim Cook says audio quality puts HomePod ahead of ‘squeaky-sounding’ competition – January 24, 2018
Apple to ship crippled, incomplete HomePod months late – January 23, 2018
Apple’s HomePod arrives February 9th, available to order this Friday, January 26th – January 23, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook paid close to $102 million for fiscal 2017 – December 28, 2017
Apple’s Phil Schiller: We feel bad about the HomePod delay – December 8, 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

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

30 Comments

  1. I find it baffling that the selling point is AUDIO QUALITY!!! yet only one HomePod can be used at a time — they don’t yet sync with each other. When’s the last time you listened to a single speaker and thought the sound was amazing? The very notion of stereo suggests two speakers at some distance from each other, each of which play slightly different sounds creating a virtual soundstage.

    No matter how good HomePod is, it will not sound great until you can put two in a room at different locations.

    Secondly, and this is huge, how will Siri work with multiple people? Read the PR announcement and you get the strong sense that these are being sold as personal devices not family devices. That means that whoever syncs the HomePod to their phone will have Siri listening to them only.

    If the above is correct, and all indications from their announcement are that it is, this is a huge fail. This can’t be a room-device for a household if it only responds to one person. If that’s not the case they should have said it.

    Finally, the allure of a smart speaker, as I understand it, is that you can do stuff. Like you can say “order me a pizza” and it’ll happen. Or “buy a new HomePod” and it will arrive in the mail. That appears to be on the way-out horizon for HomePod, perhaps this Fall at the earliest when the new iOS comes out.

    So yeah, we’re looking at a slow start here people. Will this shake out for the good? We’ll see. The excellence of the hardware will say a lot. If it’s truly exceptional that will show that Apple has a commitment to this space. If it’s flimsy and wishy-washy that will be a problem.

    Honestly, isn’t it clear that this was the device Apple was forced to make because of marketshare, and not the device they desired? Clearly Apple would prefer that people have buds in their ears and Siri on their wrist. That’s the future they were planning for, the direction of the puck as they saw it. So this HomePod, it’s a kink in the line. It remains to be seen whether it will actually dovetail with the rest of their plans.

    1. Apple is just making excuses saying their goal is audio quality. I agree with you that if audio quality is the goal, then at least two HomePods per room should be the norm.

      I don’t really understand the HomePod. I’d rather there be some $100 Apple voice assistant that hooks up to speakers I already have. Make Siri smarter and that should be good enough for most users. That’s just my personal opinion and maybe Apple knows better than I do. I’ll have to see what the HomePod sales looks like in six months. HomePod sales will surely be lower than both Amazon and Google’s voice assistant offerings and the critics will call the HomePod a massive failure. So sickening.

      1. PS.. i wrote Apple/Tim/Phil regarding multi user support …. and that their documentation has no mention of this.

        Its a mystery …
        its screwed up that Apple is not clear about it!
        Its even more screwed up if it does not support mulitiple users !

    2. The point is that people keep comparing HomePod to Echo and Google’s when it is not the same product and doesn’t want to be. Just like people complaining that the iPad needed to be a cheap netbook and the Apple Watch needed to be a cheap Fitbit. Comparing Apples and oranges. But armchair quarterbacks love to listen to themselves cause they could out coach anyone.

    3. Boy you are fake news.
      This is from apple web page.
      Create stereo sound with a second HomePod.
      Put another HomePod in the same room and they automatically detect and balance each other. With advanced beamforming capabilities, a HomePod pair is able to create a wider, more immersive soundstage than a traditional stereo pair.
      And this,
      AirPlay 2. Add HomePod to more rooms.
      When you add HomePod to more than one room, the speakers communicate with each other through AirPlay 2. Play the same music everywhere or play different songs in different rooms. You can also control any other AirPlay 2–compatible speakers.

      1. Hopefully there is some way to tell the HomePods if they get the R and L sound channels reversed. May not be important now but if the HomePods expect to replace soundbars for TV sets it would be odd to see something zooming from one side of the display to the other and the sound appearing to indicated the opposite.

  2. I’d really like to see Apple commit to this like Sonos, or perhaps partner with someone like that to provide not only the HomePod speaker, but also linked versions (perhaps cheaper, if they don’t all need the processing power in one room) and a subwoofer. Given the wireless-ness of this device, you could have one in every corner of the room. If you could calibrate to different listening fields (like people have lighting themes), you could use them for your home theater as well. Party mode (full room), TV mode (centered around the couch), iPad reading or gaming mode (centered around your favorite chair). Seriously, One control HomePod and multiple satellites in each room, and Apple could sell more of these than AppleTV’s, iPads or Macs (and might even approach iPhone numbers). If they just have vision and commit to it. Which worries me, especially this late to the party.

  3. Does it really matter how Apple is positioning the HomePod? Both Amazon and Google have multiple products at multiple price points which means they offer voice assistants for the rich and poor consumer. Apple has one product aimed at the rich user. Apple has yet to prove there’s any advantage of owning their HomePod. The tech industry is going to find it rather laughable that Apple thinks they’re going to sell a lot of HomePods when there are so many cheaper alternatives available from those other two companies.

    I’m holding off all judgment of the HomePod until it’s a retail item with people actually using it. All this chatter about whether the HomePod is useful or not is just a waste of time. Currently, Amazon owns the voice assistant market and will continue to own it because Amazon wants to dominate the market. Whatever Jeff Bezos wants, he gets. End of story.

    Apple is a rather feeble company when it comes to gaining market share. Forcing consumers to jump through hoops to own a product doesn’t accomplish very much in a short time. By the time Apple has one product in a market, most companies will have half a dozen in that market. Most companies always flood a market to saturate it as much as possible. Amazon has already done that with the Echo and Alexa and will continue to do so. Apple’s high-end $350 HomePod will go nowhere in terms of market share. Apple HomePod for $350 or nothing. Not much choice available there. Siri could have ruled the world if Apple had taken any interest in it, at all.

    1. I don’t think Apple ever intended for Homepod to compete as a smart speaker. This smells like a product that has been in development for several years or more, even before Amazon and Google released theirs. Apple may hope to improve Siri and HomeKit functionality with software updates, but the main purpose of Homepod for now is to sell Apple Music subscriptions, nothing else.

      1. If the aim is to sell Apple Music subscriptions the best course for Apple would be to somehow tie in a deal with a HomePod + Apple Music. Since Apple is so enamored of subscriptions these days, they could ‘lease’ the HomePod with a subscription to Apple Music, similar to how cable companies lease out boxes with service. That path may encourage purchases over leases after a few months of use.

        1. That’s not Apple’s MO, they only offer a paltry 5GB of iCloud storage, even for people with multiple new pieces of hardware. I wouldn’t be surprised if HomePod overtly and covertly tries to get customers without Apple Music to subscribe.

          1. I think it’s unlikely that someone who is not already a subscriber or intending to subscribe to Apple Music will be purchasing the HomePod over a competing product. Considering that, I made my suggestion above. Leasing the HomePod would give users a chance to try out the HomePod for a few months (or even just Apple Music’s trial period) and lead to full subscription and possibly a HomePod purchase.

    2. Siri was never going to rule the world, and neither is any other imputed AI. No person, company, or artificial intelligence has ever ruled the world, not even Alexander the Great. Apple has been so “feeble” in their decisions that they became the most valuable publicly-traded company. How do you explain that? I explain it by insisting that they march to a different drummer, a pied piper who took the public’s pulse and learnt how to quicken its rhythm without resorting to hyperbole and hucksterism. Steve Jobs and his legacy define Apple. They do not leave money on the table, or concede a market segment to the competition, or wait too long to bring a product to market. They don’t plan to exploit market niches and make a killing. They are organised to take their time to make something better than anyone else; if they can’t do it then they don’t do it. The stock market instinctively understands that—that craft matters more to Apple than profit. They don’t like it, and don’t reward it, but there is nothing they can do about it as long as Apple makes profits. A good portion of those profits goes into the dividends you enjoy. Only a greedy dog bites the hand that feeds him.

      1. Siri gets a bad rap. I suspect most of the people complaining about Siri haven’t seriously tried using it. When you sit down and use Siri and Alexa side by side, they are extremely competitive. Alexa has the advantage in that it is a more recognized development platform. Alexa’s “skills” are notable, just not all very useful.

        Siri does all the basic stuff Alexa does, outside the skills, including “music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information.”

        When you ask people about Siri though, they say they don’t use it.

        So maybe there is a method to Apple’s madness in pushing music quality first. Music quality being the Trojan horse Siri rides in on.

        Siri, however, has the advantage of being more uniformly mobile.

        Good list of Siri Commands (though not complete)
        https://www.sparhandy.de/i/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/list-siri-commands.pdf

        Also…

  4. This is what I’ve always loved about Apple. Everybody else is competing with Apple for market share in a price-based race for the bottom. Apple just keeps making premium products and pricing them for a reasonable profit so they can keep improving them.

      1. That’s what successful entrepreneurs do. They milk their cash cows. Meanwhile they maintain laboratories in other barns, working on the next insanely great thing. But they keep milking their healthy cows. Steve Jobs said much the same thing. Don’t be such a sourpuss.

  5. Apple has always preferred to sell its products as specialists in a particular area at least until they become very significant in the public consciousness. So it shouldn’t be taken as a given other skills won’t be a strong suit too. Unfortunately that’s an area they don’t want to emphasise I Suspect simply because due to their stuttering incompetent development of the product, and less open approach to third parties, certainly in the initial stages, there simply won’t be the breath of capabilities that it’s rivals have plugged into. Sadly I foresee the app advantage it has on the iPhone being reversed in this product with its competitors having gained the first or quick mover advantage that the iPhone gained. They have learned, so it will be a long game of catchup for Apple as with other sectors it similarly refused to accept were valid till others proved them to be, such as music streaming.

    1. Yes, “specialists” may be what Apple prefers …

      … but when they’ve been successful, it has been in making a better _generalist_ product.

      Desktops
      Laptops
      MP3 players
      Smartphones

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