Apple is only making its Siri-controlled HomePod smart speaker available sometime in December 2017, so why did they showcase the device this early? After all, the next iPhone is a mere three months away, and all we’re seeing is leak after leak of what the purported iPhone 8 may look like.
I heard that iPhone 8 back will be special and unique alloy of glass and metal. pic.twitter.com/tbKfWfc2qj
— Benjamin Geskin (@VenyaGeskin1) June 4, 2017
So why the rush with Apple HomePod? More importantly, why is Apple giving Amazon and Google such a long runway to improve their next line of products or push major updates? Six months is a lifetime in the world of devices, so will the HomePod actually look the same when it’s finally available to buy later this year?
On the other hand, Apple could be putting the HomePod out there so buyers who are on the fence about an Echo or Home can wait it out, now that they know for a fact that a Siri device from Apple really exists.
But it looks like the move will hurt Apple rather than help it.
For one, Apple has locked itself into a design for the device, so they can’t really make any major changes at this point.
Second, they could work on beefing up Siri’s skills or work on more integrations in the interim, but their options are fairly limited on that front.
Google and Amazon are both miles ahead in terms of product development, user familiarity and even basic capabilities. Apple is just getting started, and it will be a while before there’s a robust suite of functionalities outside of what Siri is able to do right now. Which is not saying much.
Third, Apple revealing the device several months ahead of the holiday season without the ability to pre-order looks too much like their hand has been forced by the popularity of Echo and Home devices. Are they really telling their fans: “Wait for us, we’re there too”?
The fourth element is the fact that Apple clearly said that they haven’t unveiled all the features of the HomePod yet. And there was little talk of Siri, but rather a stronger focus on the HomePod’s audio capabilities. However, with Harman Kardon technology coming on at least two smart speakers this year and in 2018, the Invoke from Microsoft and the Lenovo Smart Assistant from the Chinese electronics giant, that doesn’t make sense either.
All of this leads us to believe that this was a ‘panic release’ of sorts. Apple was a little late tapping into the smart speaker market, even though they were one of the first in the voice-based AI space. Siri doesn’t even come close to some of the skills and practical value that Echo and Home bring to the table. Amazon and Google are running away with the market that the Echo helped create. If that doesn’t spell “CODE RED” at Apple Inc., I don’t know what else does.
So now, we’ll have to wait for Part 2 of this “series” – HomePod announcements at the September unveiling of iPhone 8 or whatever Apple plans to call it. Let’s hope they haven’t made the wrong decision by showcasing the mere shell of the HomePod – to 5,000 developers, no less.