“$350 for a smart speaker?!” “No, $350 for a speaker !”
Is it Apple’s fault that the conversations around the HomePod are so dysfunctional?
Apple introduced the HomePod as a premium speaker that makes great sound. In fact, if you go to its website, the first 4 out of 5 features are all music related. Only the 5th feature was Siri/Smart assistant related. Even if you go back to the keynote, you would find Phil Schiller spent most of his presentation talking about it as a premium speaker.
Yet, the most common conversation around this product is how it compares to the Amazon Echos and Google Home smart speakers out there. Inevitably, when those comparisons are made, the much higher price of the HomePod immediately becomes the focus/issue. Instead of comparing the HomePod to audio speakers such as Sonos or B&W or even Marshall, the conversations become almost meaningless.
It is like a car company has made a premium racecar, yet for some reason, it is constantly being compared to … cargo vans in the market.
Apple designed the HomePod to be a speaker first, that is also voice controlled by Siri, and hence smart assistant second.
While Amazon Echos and Google Homes are smart assistant first, speaker second.
Going back to racecar analogy …
The racecar was designed to focus on speed first, and carrying people and stuff second.
While the cargo vans were designed to carry stuff first, speed …. maybe not even 50th.
So what happened?
Perhaps the success of the Echos is making people think about how late Apple is to the game of smart assistants at home. Perhaps this somewhat plays into the “Oh Apple cannot innovate anymore. Apple is doomed” narrative as well. Perhaps, on a more positive note, people really want Apple to come up with something great for smart assistants/speakers at home, and they pin their hopes onto the HomePod.
Or perhaps Apple did that onto itself. It certainly did not help when this was announced on stage, in addition to comparing it to the Sonos speakers, images of the Amazon Echo and Google Home were also on screen, clearly indicating whom it was trying to “compete” with.
What I find most interesting, is how some of these conversations feel like. They are like conversations of a couple, dating, married, divorced, all mixed together.
I wanted steak and you made veal. Why didn’t you know I wanted the black sofa? You are not listening. I love you. But that’s what you said! You disappointed me. I hate you. #jealous. #wink.
I wonder, just like any relationships, should Apple be more specific, in both what they intend to do, and what NOT they intend to do?
Something like “We are making a home speaker that sounds great, not a speaker that sounds crappy.”
Or in the end, it doesn’t really matter …
I can’t wait to observe how the conversations evolve as the HomePod starts to hit people’s home. I am sure though, soon, we will get into these fights again, which, to be honest, is delightful to watch.