Apple HomePod disappoints with weak sales after tardy debut that missed Christmas shopping season

“When Apple Inc.’s HomePod smart speaker went on sale in January, it entered a market pioneered and dominated by Amazon’s Echo lineup of Alexa-powered devices,” Mark Gurman reports for Bloomberg. “Apple has been touting the HomePod’s superior sound quality but so far hasn’t enticed many consumers to part with $349.”

“By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec Corp., one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple, according to a person familiar with the matter,” Gurman reports. “During the HomePod’s first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. Apple declined to comment.”

“Apple had an opportunity to put the HomePod at the center of a new ecosystem of smart home and other gadgets that aren’t glued to the iPhone. But the small, wireless speaker is not that product,” Gurman reports. “Though the HomePod delivers market-leading audio quality, consumers have discovered it’s heavily dependent on the iPhone and is limited as a digital assistant.”

“Apple never saw the HomePod as anything more than an accessory, like the AirPods earphones, according to people who worked on the product. When the Echo debuted four years ago as Apple engineers were toiling away on early versions of the HomePod, their bosses continued to see the product as a high-quality speaker rather than a voice-controlled digital assistant for the home,” Gurman reports. “To make matters worse, the device missed its December release date, meaning the HomePod wasn’t available during the pivotal holiday shopping season when smart speakers were among the most sought-after products. When the HomePod finally shipped, consumers found they couldn’t pair two speakers and create stereo sound or play music in multiple rooms. Apple has said these functions will be available this year…”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Tim Cook’s Apple. Tardy, confused, unfocused, and mismanaged.

HomePod — incomplete, ill-conceived, and late — is just another sign of what we’ve been warning about for over three years now. Misplaced priorities and mismanagement are the causes.

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

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

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.. — MacDailyNews, November 17, 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

Apple could be run better than it currently is with more visionary leadership whose number one priority is delighting the customers of Apple Inc. by delivering exceptional products – as it was under Steve Jobs – but that will never happen because Steve Jobs left a company with so much momentum, that the cumulative effects of management mistakes won’t slow it down for years, if not decades. That is why Tim Cook has a free ride to plant trees in China while selling an over four-year “Mac Pro” as new today. (Note: It’s fine to plant trees in China, release coffee table books, etc. after you’ve competently performed the basic aspects of your job – like having first-rate, up-to-date products available for sale. When you do such things in spite of offering old product, incomplete product, flawed product, late product, and no product, you leave yourself open to criticism.)

Regardless, as long as the money keeps rolling in and share prices continue to climb, Tim Cook et al. aren’t going anywhere, but make no mistake: Apple could be performing better (we’re talking for customers here, not stock price) and would be with more focused, disciplined, visionary leadership. We gave Tim Cook much benefit of the doubt, but, as always, we call ’em like we see ’em. It’s not like Steve Jobs had the most stellar record of picking Apple CEOs.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook
In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook was paid well over a quarter of a million dollars per day ($279,452/day), yet his company could not manage to ship a fully-capable smart speaker (with multi-room, multi-user, and stereo paring capabilities) for 3 years, 3 months, and 4 days and counting after Amazon invented the category.
— MacDailyNews, March 13, 2018

Regardless of the profits and stock performance, many will say: Too many mistakes too richly rewarded. The recent lack of focus, timely performance, and vexing issues with quality control (that should not exist in the world’s most valuable company, 40+ years after inception) will, if continued, negatively impact the company and future executives years down the road, likely not the current set.MacDailyNews, December 28, 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

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

SEE ALSO:
Apple tumbles 24 spots – from 5th to 29th – in Harris Reputation Poll – March 13, 2018
Apple shakes up software development strategy to focus on quality – February 12, 2018
Apple on Mac flaw: ‘We apologize to all Mac users. Our customers deserve better. We are auditing our development processes.’ – November 29, 2017
Tim Cook’s sloppy, unfocused Apple rushes to fix a major Mac security bug – November 29, 2017
What to do about Apple’s shameful Mac security flaw in macOS High Sierra – November 29, 2017
Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple – November 20, 2017
Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company – April 6, 2017
On the future of Apple’s Macintosh – February 6, 2017
Apple is misplaying the hand Steve Jobs left them – November 30, 2016
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

27 Comments

  1. Apple had to delay the Home Pod release because of issues with Siri that needed ironing out, the hardware side of things was less complicated. Apple is still trying to improve Siri, hence the poaching of the top Google engineer for AI. Good to see Apple learned their mistake from the premature map release, meaning the home pod software is less buggy. If Apple spent less time on doing less new IOS and OSX, and instead spend time on perfecting the bugs by through testing. We dont need a new IOS and OSX every year

    1. No, but we do need Apple to make macOS a first-class citizen when it comes to integrating into business networks, and to stop insisting on everyone doing it Apple’s way rather than Apple learning to do it the way the market already does it.

      Once Apple learns – again – to embrace the existing so that they’re in a position to influence the direction of the market, they might even become relevant.

      But in some environments – notably government and military – those of us who are Apple advocates and want Macs treated as first-class citizens are often dismayed to find out that one of our worst enemies is Apple itself.

    2. “Apple had to delay the Home Pod release because of issues with Siri that needed ironing out…”

      Buddy, in case you forgot, Siri was the first AI companion from all of the big companies and it is now in last place. It sucks compared to Alexa and google.

      The fact that Apple is having to play catch up after being the first one out the gate is extremely troubling and says a lot about the current management under Cook.

    3. Apple is trying to fix too many horses that have already been escaped the barn instead of being out in front of it and never letting those horses loose in the first place. The difference between real & faux leadership is one charts and anticipates the correct course of action and one merely reacts to problems that occur because of lack of foresight, creativity, correct market reading and technical savvy. I dont have to tell which one is in force today. Someone who can make the hard decisions wisely needs to replace the current CEO before more horses (and apology follow-ups) escape and Apples reputation is damaged further.

      God only knows how many previous Mac pro users won’t be around anymore to buy whatever misbegotten and ill-thought out Mac Pro Apple comes out with in another YEAR AND A HALF or more having moved on elsewhere. Sad and beyond the pale.

      1. Serious question, where else will the pro users go? The only alternative is Windows really and I don’t want to go that route lol

        Will we see a increase in Linux usage now since it’s realitivily similar to OS X to a degree?

        1. Partly market forces but in the last week MSFT marketcap has exceeded GOOG and AMZN to place 2nd after AAPL. Microsoft is doing something right to keep up the pressure.

    1. Did you read the article?

      Despite Cook’s smoke and mirrors about how the complex Apple supply chain makes it impossible for analysts to estimate sales accurately, the truth is that Apple outsourced Homepod manufacturing to a company called Inventec. It ain’t hard to count how may delivery trucks leave Inventec every month.

      Apple Store retail salespeople are reporting in some locations fewer than 10 Homepod sales per day.

      Maybe Apple will again postpone all Mac hardware development so that we can have Homepod Series 2 in Product Red colors this next Xmas season, but the fact remains that the initial surge of Apple fanboy purchasing has cooled.

      The reasons are many. I think the biggest one is that it doesn’t solve any problem that homeowners need. Apple designed a me-too home speaker focused solely on Apple Music subscribers. The one-hit-wonder doesn’t replace Airports, doesn’t work with legacy stereos, doesn’t work with Apple TV, doesn’t enhance Homekit devices reliably, can’t fill large spaces with great audio, can’t sync to form stereo imaging the way 80+% of music is archived today, can’t display anything, comes with the worst audio assistant on the planet … the list of what Homepod cannot do is endless.

      The good news for you, happy Homepod owner, is that your $350 has just been enhanced by a few new jokes that Siri got this week.

      Aside from the atrocious hardware and Siri limitations, the homepod also suffers from horrible Apple marketing. Cook and Co are too timid to call out Amazon and Google for their cheap in home spy bot datamining. Why?

  2. Sounds like typical Bloomberg negative spin to me. No facts, and a reference to Apple sales forecasts which is pure fantasy. If Apple is having trouble selling HomePod inventory, you’d think they would be selling in more markets by now. More likely that they are having trouble making enough.

  3. I went to an Apple Store yesterday. Lots of people in there as usual (10X more than in the M$ store across the way).
    Played with the HomePod a bit. Given that the background sound was very noise, it was able to pick up a command.
    Will I buy one? Probably not. The reason is not price or quality, it just that I don’t see a great need for it. I already have a 4 speaker sound system for the TV and typically listen to music on my AirPods (which are excellent).
    I certainly trust Apple for privacy and for that reason if I do get such a device then it will be the HomePod and not some offering from Amazon etc.

  4. This is a typical Bloomberg/WSJ/IBT spin piece based on very suspect data. No facts in the article, it reads just like the “framing” pieces written about Apple Watch in 2015 (which were all wrong btw, and now everyone magically forgets writing them), nonsense. Slice data has typically been way off with Apple products in the “other” category, and since Apple doesn’t break out complete sales data these things get traction. Amazing how when Amazon has never reported sales data for Echo, everyone in the tech press and financial rags says what a “huge success” it is; with the same lack of evidence. You’ll never read a negative Amazon article even when their products flop or they’re cooking the books (same goes for Google & Microsoft), but with Apple negativity equals clicks, clicks equals revenue, revenue equals ability to pump and dump shares… rinse and repeat… this article is bullshit and at WWDC I’m pretty sure we’ll get some clarity on that.

    1. The difference is that the Apple Watch had more useful features than the competition even if it was limited to being used only with the iPhone. HomePod on the other hand entered a market where its only real advantage over the competition was better sound ‘intelligence’ while also being limited primarily to the iPhone.

      1. Not when it came out though, these articles were all written saying how android wear was more capable yadda yadda yadda, and how LG & Samsung would dominate the smartwatch market because of their “ergonomic lead”… same basic shit. The $399 Google home max is never referred to as expensive, while the $349 HomePod is… the $299 Apple Watch was referred to as expensive while the $399 Samsung Watch was not… the $949 Note 8 isn’t referred to as expensive while the iPhone 8+ at $849 is…. and 16GB of RAM is a massive issue on the MBP even though the chipset doesn’t support more while 16GB of RAM is “well specced” on a Razer system that is the exact same price… don’t kid yourself, all of this stuff is disingenuous and it’s the same nonsense AstroTurf that Microsoft pulled in the 90’s, same playbook.

  5. I was ready to three of these in December for Christmas presents. They werren’t ready so I bought other things now. Guess what, not so excited about them given their high price. Sorry Apple…

  6. I’m not much of a smart speaker person. They’re nice but it’s a product I don’t really need. I have owned a Gen2 Fire TV with Alexa remote for quite a while and I rarely use the voice feature. I have to admit when I do use it, it works very well (precisely). Most of the music I listen to at home is done with BT headphones or earphones. I don’t see what the big deal is about the smart speaker and smart voice assistant market. I realize AI is becoming important and maybe that’s the reason Apple is seen as falling behind. I’m a senior citizen and I suppose I’m just out of touch with technology to be concerned about not having the smart speaker and smart voice assistant devices. Most of the people I know don’t have such devices in their homes.

    There are other Apple products I need to buy and a $350 smart speaker would easily be the last on the list if on the list at all. What I don’t like is seeing Apple in last place considering how old Siri is and Apple let it fall behind in intelligence despite having all that money to stay ahead of rivals. That’s quite disappointing to me. Apple could have put Siri on all of its devices for years to gain feedback and improve it. Apple is so lax in doing such simple things.

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