Apple's HomePod Strategy: Music Today, Much More Tomorrow

Apple's HomePod Strategy: Music Today, Much More Tomorrow

Apple's HomePod Strategy: Music Today, Much More Tomorrow

"The notion of a "home assistant" or "virtual assistant" seems to be secondary". With Airplay 2 we finally get multiroom audio support, a huge upgrade that will allow homes with Apple's HomePod - as well as products from partners like Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Marantz and others - to stream audio wirelessly to different rooms and to multiple speakers. The speaker, which is expected to be released in December, is a direct response to similar devices made by Amazon, Google and Sonos. According to market research firm eMarketer, Amazon will capture 70.6 percent of all voice-enabled speaker users in the USA this year.

But it would be more convenient for consumers if the systems could be interlinked, allowing users to mix and match smart products.

David Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of devices, on Wednesday offered one of his company's first official responses to the HomePod.

"You should be able to tell 'Alexa, ask Siri X, '" he said.

'If Apple or Google want to come calling, my phone number is out there, they can call.

If customers are looking for smart home control, HomePod doesn't jump out at me as a top choice, unless users are already invested in the Apple ecosystem (more on this later).

However, Adam Scott from comparison service PriceSpy said Apple's "late" arrival to the smart speaker market could prove an advantage.

Apple also introduced a new version of its business-oriented iPad Pro at an intermediate size with more storage, a better display and an improved camera.

Alexa and Assistant are the digital voice assistants of Amazon and Google, respectively. It would seem some of us can anticipate our parents making any number of awful home related puns when they go to flip on their new holiday playlist next time they are over for a family game night.

The connected speaker market is the next big tech hotspot, and there are now three primary players. Created to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to over 40 million songs, HomePod provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music. "Siri can be worse, but it's going to have a higher install base for a long time".

The device uses a technique known as beam forming to personalise the sound for each room and listener.

Users can also interact with Siri, via the smart speaker, about plenty of everyday things like asking about news, traffic, weather, sports, translations, and other general knowledge.

It has six microphones, and is activated with the phrase Hey Siri.

For time being, Amazon is dominating this new category. With Apple pricing the HomePod for $349, it's a tough sell compared to the $179 Amazon Echo or the $129 Google Home. The company shrewdly priced the Echo Dot at $50, making it a no-brainer Christmas gift this past holiday season. The primary work for the HomePod, as Apple says, is playing music in a way that is better than how others do it.

It also detects if you've added another HomePod.

Eyeing this growth, not only Apple but also other tech giants including Samsung Electronics and Microsoft are preparing to launch smart speakers of their own this year.

It's probably fair to say Google and Amazon are less interested in audio performance, though their speakers still sound decent.

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