Today, Apple finally announced a shipping date for a intelligent speaker, a HomePod. And something about a launch of this Apple song device reminds me of a launch of that other Apple song device, a iPod.
“No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame,” pronounced Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda on Slashdot on Oct 1st, 2001. (The Nomad, if you’re wondering, was a pre-iPod MP3 actor that was a distance and figure of a Sony Discman in a early incarnations. So.) At a time, Slashdot was a many critical online village for articulate about tech. And during a time, tech news meant for contention (a lot of Linux) was posted with brief news snippets submitted by readers, snarky one-liners from a people who posted, and even snarkier tags. The iPod came “from a well-thats-not-very-exciting dept.”
CmdrTaco’s criticism has turn a authorized “tech people don’t get Apple” quote. It didn’t give scarcely adequate credit to a things that Apple was fast apropos good during doing in 2001: design, both in hardware and in software. It focused on tech specs instead of usability. It discharged Apple as a fondle company. Basically, each time we see an Apple left-wing with a chip on their shoulder fortifying a company, it goes behind to a kind greeting to that quote evokes.
It’s still a absolute feeling today, even yet Apple is (by any reasonable metric) a many absolute and successful association in consumer tech. It’s absolute since that greeting has been fit a few times over a years. The bizarre iPhone launched with delayed 2G wireless and no apps. The Apple Watch was slow, overpriced, and treacherous during launch. The iPhone went on to turn a biggest consumer product of all time. The Apple Watch overcame a overhyped launch and has sensitively turn a hit.
There are parallels between a HomePod and a iPod. Both are inclination rising into an already swarming market, where companies are battling it out for marketplace share and mindshare. Both are singular during launch to operative good within Apple’s possess ecosystem. Both are some-more costly than most of their competition. Both effect to be some-more superb and user-friendly than all else out there. Both are laser-focused on music. Both have a word “Pod” in their product name.
Both are rising with critical questions about their functionality and ability to attain in a marketplace.
Since my usually genuine knowledge with a HomePod was a 10-minute tranquil demo on launch day, I’m fundamentally in a same place Malda was those 17-odd years ago. The thing has been announced, we know what’s been claimed, and not most else. We generally don’t know what it’s like to indeed use a HomePod, and using a iPod is what assured we it was different.
So, I’m not fervent put myself out on a prong and contend that a HomePod is or is not going to replicate a iPod’s success. But we can’t stop from feeling like a intelligent orator marketplace is serve along in a expansion now than a MP3 actor marketplace was when a iPod was announced. we also can’t stop meditative that consumers are smarter and some-more perfectionist about gadgets now than they were then.
Here is a elementary list of a things that are discouraging about a HomePod vis-à-vis a competition, Alexa and Google Assistant speakers:
- Price. The HomePod is $349. You can buy into possibly a Alexa or Google ecosystem for 50 bucks (often for proceed less).
- Diversity of products. There is one HomePod, and it costs 350 bucks. There are dozens of opposite speakers that support Alexa; Amazon itself offers during slightest 4 stream models. There are shortly to be dozens of Google Assistant speakers; Google itself offers 3 models. Both of those ecosystems will have speakers with full displays (if that’s what we want).
- Software compatibility. Alexa and Google have a poignant lead with their intelligent assistants compared to Siri. That’s a bizarre circumstance, given that Apple was initial to marketplace with Siri and sells millions of inclination with Siri on them. But both Amazon and Google have been building out concordant voice-only capabilities with third parties to work with their speakers, while Apple has taken a slower, some-more counsel approach. Apple’s outline of Siri on a HomePod is a “musicologist” and usually mentions a broader capabilities as a side note.
- Software compatibility, partial 2. The HomePod usually works with Apple Music. Alexa and Google not usually work with Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn (and more!), yet they’ll even let we set a competing song use as a default playback option. Also, Apple Music has no giveaway option: to make a HomePod work, you’ll have to compensate a monthly subscription fee.
- Features incomplete. The HomePod is rising without pivotal facilities for a home speaker. AirPlay 2 is apparently necessary for multiroom audio and even stereo pairing of dual speakers, and it won’t be on a HomePod during launch. It’s “coming this year in a giveaway program update.” (Also can we take another impulse to ask what a heck is adult with AirPlay 2? It still feels unequivocally mysterious.) Meanwhile, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Sonos are all charity these features.
That’s substantially enough. But as we write each singular one of those doom-and-gloom bullet points, we hear a little voice in a behind of my head. It says “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” What if all that naysaying is only some-more out-of-touch techy nonsense, and “real people” will adore it some-more than Alexa or Google Home?
The gamble on a HomePod is a same as a gamble on roughly each new Apple product: that a spec list doesn’t supplement adult to a whole experience. It’s a gamble that there will be some special Apple pattern sorcery in a hardware and a program that only creates it feel improved to use.
It’s also a gamble that even yet a pundits (raises hand) contend that Apple is too late to a market, it’s unequivocally not. That’s what happened with a iPod and a iPhone: people suspicion those markets were mature, yet in reality, they were little and prepared to turn massive. Apple was a matter that done it happen.
The same could be loyal for intelligent speakers. But as easy as it is to pull parallels to a iPod, a differences seem bigger to me. Apple’s competitors are far, distant improved during creation consumer products than they were 17 years ago. Apple’s consumers are savvier (and, yes, nerdier) than they were 17 years ago. People adore Google and Amazon; they’ve both schooled a lot of Apple’s tricks and expelled crafty inclination that people suffer using.
This is an astray comparison since these inclination set a unequivocally high bar. But still, when a iPod and iPhone launched, a people who got them “got it.” They knew immediately that what they were regulating was improved than what existed before and portended a opposite kind of future. Will people who get a HomePod feel a same way?
Right now, we doubt it.