If you’ve been in an induced coma for the year… well, congratulations. That sounds pretty sweet. But to catch you up on the connected home speaker wars, here’s how it’s gone while you were out:
Before WWDC 2017: “APPLE MUST DELIVER A CONNECTED HOME SPEAKER SYSTEM OR BE SWEPT AWAY BY THE TIDES OF PROGRESS.”
After WWDC 2017: “HOMEPOD IS TOO EXPENSIVE AND TOO LATE AND SIRI IS TOO WEAK, AMAZON IS LOCKING UP THIS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT MARKET.”
That’s about all you missed. And some good TV but you can catch up on that.
Pundits are falling over each other like non-adorable but still stupid puppies in a big, dumb basket to lament Apple’s decision to position the HomePod as a high-end speaker system rather than a cheap home AI system. It may be a fair criticism that Apple’s not really competing as well as it should be in the home virtual assistant market, which will be a problem when home automation starts to really take off (it hasn’t yet).
But why is it that Apple gets a disproportionate amount of criticism for failing to adequately compete in a particular market?
Has anyone seen a critique of Amazon because it doesn’t compete in the market for wearables? There have been some toward Google because Android Wear has been such a colossal failure, but not to the degree that Apple is criticized for the HomePod and Siri. Amazon, meanwhile, isn’t even in the wearables market and no one says a thing about it. Logic tells us there are two kinds of places in this world: inside your home and outside your home. Pundit logic says to only worry about the first one.
How is Apple doing in the wearables business anyway?
“18 million Apple Watches ship in 2017, up 54% on 2016.”
“Apple has won the wearables game,” said Jason Low, Senior Analyst at Canalys. “Despite innovative designs, such as the rotating bezels and circular screens employed by other vendors, Apple has pulled far ahead…”
But pundits are over wearables. They’re now clamoring for Apple to make a cut-rate speaker that competes with the Echo Dot.
And forget about the smartphone market. Pundits have. No one seems to recall how Amazon bombed at it so dramatically and then simply gave up. The Fire Phone has been swept unceremoniously under the rug. Some of them possibly literally.
[Visiting Jeff Bezos’s house]
“What’s that crunching sound?”
The home market is certainly important, but at least the Macalope still has his iPhone and Apple Watch with him while he’s in the house. Where is Amazon when you walk out the door?
Circling around you with drones, yes, that’s true. But, still, that’s just needlessly aggressive.
The Macalope is certainly not arguing that Siri doesn’t seem to be behind on the virtual assistant curve (although it’s not as much as many like to claim). And it is baffling as to why there are different versions of Siri on different platforms. This leads to an inconsistent and bewildering user experience. Apple needs to improve the accuracy, capability and consistency of Siri.
There are fair criticisms to be made of Apple’s position. But Apple probably gets twice the amount of criticism it should for its home speaker offering while Amazon gets none for its failure to compete in certain markets at all.
(An earlier version of this piece linked to the wrong piece by Canalys. Turns out last year the Apple Watch did pretty well, too, and the Macalope got the wrong year. Tip o’ the antlers to Daniel for the correction.)