The entire world is waiting with bated breath to see the next ground-breaking device from Apple, and it might not be the iPhone 8. We’ve been talking about the new iPhone for some time now, and it appears that most of the important features have already been revealed. While that’s not a good thing for Apple right now, it may give millions of people a familiar sense of having seen it before when it finally launches – a critical component of consumer psychology. But there’s something much bigger that people are waiting for – a Siri-enabled Apple smart speaker.
There was some expectation around an Apple smart speaker along the lines of Amazon Echo and Google Home, especially after the roaring success of Amazon Echo, which is estimated to have reached more than 8.2 million users in United States since its launch in November 2014. That’s the extremely lowball estimate, with some taking that number up to 11 million units or more.
Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing at Apple, was dismissive about Google Home and Amazon Echo, and hinted that Apple would rather have a screen to go with its voice-driven personal assistant, Siri, instead of making a standalone Apple smart speaker device that is restricted to voice interaction.
Though Schiller did not comment on the competing devices from Amazon and Google, he was very emphatic about there being a market for a screen accompanying a voice-enabled device. He did hint at his disapproval of the direction Google Home and Amazon Echo had taken (“My mother used to have a saying that if you don’t have something nice to say, say nothing at all.“), and his view is that a screen is sometimes the best complementary cue for a voice-based device.
Apple didn’t invest in Siri for nothing. They do believe that voice is the future, but it’s only part of the picture. Incidentally, the Amazon Echo with Touchscreen had early images leaked from Amazon’s servers yesterday, and this could very well be the next evolutionary step for voice-capable smart speakers. Did Amazon beat Apple to the punch?
The rumored Apple smart speaker could well take that route, essentially bypassing the current evolutionary stage that Google is at, and where Microsoft will be when the Harman Kardon Invoke is released with Cortana capabilities later this year.
But the greater need right now – at least for Apple Inc. – is to go beyond what’s currently on offer. Amazon is taking that first step – albeit with what looks suspiciously like the Sony Dash. The real innovation will have to come from something other than merely a touchscreen coupled with voice capabilities.
And another important point, one that I’ve voiced before, is the value that Apple can bring to this particular device segment. An Apple smart speaker might do well from a sales perspective, shoring up declining iPhone sales, but can it offer enough value to be attractive to the company’s massive one-billion-strong iPhone user base?
Obviously, the first people to lap up such a product from the house of iPhone will be the ones who are already Apple fans and own iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, iMacs and so on. From that angle, the projected demand for such a product from Apple looks solid.
But the value question is one that cannot be avoided. Each of these tech majors bring something big to the table with their devices: Echo brings retail opportunities, Home brings search traffic and advertising opportunities and Invoke will bring voice-based interactivity with Windows 10, Office 365 and other products. What value can an Apple smart speaker add to the equation to make it a stand-out device?
The Siri-enabled Apple smart speaker is expected to be announced at WWDC 2017 scheduled for June 5 through June 9, according to KGI Securities analysts and well-known Apple oracle, Ming-Chi Kuo. Time will tell whether or not the subsequent launch will be well-received, and why it might attract a huge user base.
Source: Gadgets 360