Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg, thinks Apple is 3 years behind Amazon because they’re focused on the speaker and not the assistant. Filled with lots of information “according to people familiar with the situation”, Why Apple’s HomePod Is Three Years Behind Amazon’s Echo seems written to inspire anger from Apple zealots particularly considering the HomePod hasn’t actually been released yet. Not to mention that nightmare inducing animation accompanying the article.
As someone who is way outside the knowledge of what’s going on inside Apple, a lot of the points have a ring of truthiness to me.
The Apple engineers jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together. They quickly deemed the Echo’s sound quality inferior and got back to work building a better speaker.
I can totally see Apple mocking the sound quality of the Echo or Google Home and think that’s the main selling point of a device like this. It’s like they learned nothing from the iPod Hi-Fi experience. It sounded great but nobody wanted to buy an overpriced speaker – no matter how great it sounded.
But the Siri team was told that the HomePod was about music and quality sound, one of the people said. Yes, the speaker would be voice-activated but it wouldn’t be positioned as a personal assistant.
I hope they recognize by the time it ships that the assistant is as important as sound quality.
The Echo is a truly standalone product at the center of an ecosystem. The cloud-based operating system has made it easy for developers to create thousands of skills or voice-activated apps. By contrast, the HomePod is essentially an extension of the iPhone, like an accessory. When someone asks the HomePod to open a third-party app, the request won’t go directly to the cloud, as with the Echo, but to an iPhone.
The iPhone is to Apple as Windows was to Microsoft. Maybe it’s a stop-gap until these devices are powerful enough to not have an iPhone connected in some way but Apple’s method of requiring everyone to have their own iPhone (or iOS device) gets in the way of a lot of opportunities.
What’s more, Apple has limited the kinds of apps to messaging, to-do lists and notes. If Alexa is the beating heart of the Echo, Siri is almost an afterthought.
But we’ll see what the device is capable of when it actually ships in 2018.
Right now, for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals Amazon has the Echo on for $99CDN, regularly $129. Apple’s HomePod will likely be $399 – $450CDN.
This is the part I believe the least:
Testers dropped the speaker from various heights and even threw it in a room with young kids.
There are no kids allowed at Apple. Nobody there in management has any idea how to build software for families.