Apple lowers expectations for HomePod’s I.Q.

Arriving Feb. 9—two months late and three years after Amazon’s Echo—Apple’s intelligent assistant is not being sold on the strength of its intelligence.

From Apple’s HomePod availability press release:

“HomePod is a magical new music experience from Apple. It brings advanced audio technologies like beam-forming tweeters, a high-excursion woofer and automatic spatial awareness, together with the entire Apple Music catalog and the latest Siri intelligence, in a simple, beautiful design that is so much fun to use,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We’re so excited for people to get HomePod into their homes, apartments and businesses to hear it for themselves. We think they will be blown away by the audio quality. The team has worked to give Siri a deeper knowledge of music so that you can ask to play virtually anything from your personal favorites to the latest chart-topping releases, simply by saying ‘Hey Siri.’”

My take: If Siri on the HomePod were going to blow the socks off Alexa or Hey Google as anything more than an AI DJ, Schiller would have said so. I don’t need another speaker, or another voice-controlled assistant. But I’d pay more for a smarter one.

Pre-orders start Friday. I’ll probably buy a HomePod, if only to eat the dog food, but $349 is starting to feel a little steep.

15 Comments

  1. Fred Stein said:

    I think Philip nailed it.

    Siri was only recently moved into the hands of the right manager, Craig. It will take time to repair the organizational damage done by Eddie Cue and earlier by Scott Forstall. It’s a harsh judgment on Eddie and Scott but an optimistic view of Craig.Siri was announced in October 2011.

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    January 23, 2018
  2. David Drinkwater said:

    “Apple’s intelligent assistant is not being sold on the strength of its intelligence.”

    I really don’t know where this assumption is coming from, PED. I’d like to see you defend your thesis a little bit more robustly. (With humble apologies, of course.)

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    January 23, 2018
    • David D writes: I really don’t know where this assumption is coming from, PED.

      I’m just reading the plain text of Schiller’s statement. He’s selling HomePod today—as Apple did last June—as a “magical” speaker. If Siri was meant to be the headliner, Schiller buried the lead.

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      January 23, 2018
      • David Drinkwater said:

        Dunno. Maybe the presser isn’t particularly explicit, but the website statements at store dot apple dot com seem to be pretty Siri-sensitive. My data are vaguely broken, because it appears that the first page www dot apple dot com/homepod/ is largely graphical, so a search for Siri on the page yields nothing, but I can see the word as plain as day. Once she lands on people’s doorsteps, we will surely hear the typical array of “Apple is doomed” prognostications, but I too will order at least one bowl of the dog food, and my hope is to be hungry for more. I have roughly five applications in mind, once the stereo is worked out.

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        January 23, 2018
  3. John Kirk said:

    I could be way off on this. My thinking has always been that while Amazon wants to shift the emphasis for smart devices to the home, Apple DOES NOT. Apple already has the iPhone which is available everywhere — both in the home and out. Amazon’s devices are anchored to the home.

    So it doesn’t make much sense to me for Apple to try to push intelligent speaker devices. Apple wants you to use devices that enhance the iPhone, not devices that undercut the value of the iPhone.

    Further, as a strategist, I think it is unwise to attack someone where they are strong. Alexa is doing gangbusters in intelligent home speaker devices. Apple would be going head to head with them while Amazon can keep their prices MUCH lower because their devices also act to enhance sales at their Amazon store. If Apple were to sell high-end speakerphones that only did what Amazon’s speakers do, they’d get slaughtered.

    Apple wants to do what Apple does best, not what Amazon does best. Music is a strength for Apple and a weakness for Amazon. I don’t know if Apple’s current strategy will work, but it seems like it might be a good way to enter the market.

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    January 24, 2018
    • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

      I agree, but I also think that Apple views Siri as a platform. They don’t want you using a smart speaker or an iPhone for that matter. In the voice assistant realm, I think their vision is cohesion across devices, so that you always have Siri whether in your car, on your phone, talking to your watch, or shouting out to your home speaker.

      I could be wrong but I think Apple wants us to be able to control everything from everywhere and pretty much on any (Apple) device. I don’t think they view this as a “smart speaker vs. iPhone” kind of thing. It will take some time to get there, but I think the goal is a voice assistant that works across many devices so that you have “continuity”.

      If the current state of “continuity” is any indicator, device independence is a hard thing to achieve.

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      January 24, 2018

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