Monday, June 05, 2017

Apple HomePod: Likely DoA

Update: The Verge did a great comparison of the "Smart" speaker marketplace earlier today. Here's what they found.

Apple announced its Siri-based, smart, home speaker today. Dubbed the HomePod, the speaker is supposedly a marvel of engineering - acoustic prowess, AI chops and home automation - in a sleek package. This was supposed to a shot across the bow of Google Home and Amazon Echo. Alas, it is going to be Dead on Arrival (DoA) for four big reasons:

  1. Price: $349 is a ridiculously high price point for a speaker that is yet to prove itself in a market in which speakers of the same size aren’t more than $200 (and have strong pedigree, compatibility with numerous online services) such as the Sonos Play 1.
  2. Siri: There are critically acclaimed home assistants that double as speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home) which defined the market and are arguably better assistants than Siri.
  3. From (1) and (2) it should be clear that there is a lack of differentiation from market offerings.
  4. Availability: Launch in December gives the competition a chance to catch up on the cool "speaker" features.

I recently invested in a pair of Sonos Play 1 speakers because Apple Stores featured them as best of breed. Apparently, the HomePod is going to be better because it has been designed with music in mind. It has 7-tweeters, can automatically adjust its acoustic response based on the room in which it is placed, and will connect to another HomePod automatically (if you have another $349 burning a hole in your wallet). Great. So can the Sonos Play 1. Siri can get me scores for my favorite teams and the current weather. Great. So can Alexa or Google's assistant. All for a fraction of the price.

Almost all the electronic equipment in my home office and in my bedrooms is Apple branded: MacBook Pro, iMac, AppleTV, Airport Extreme, iPads and iPhones. On balance, even I won’t buy a HomePod.

I wonder why anyone else will…

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