So 2017 was officially the year of the Voice Assistant. With Amazon’s Alexa stealing the show at January’s CES in Las Vegas, going on to release multiple new models such as the Show, Look and Dot as well as new iterations of the Echo its self. While Google has rolled out a range of new features and bolstered their assistant with greater access to their vast repository of data and released the Home Max which is being touted as directly competing with Apple’s upcoming Homepod. Voice is definitely going to be a key driver of tech in the next few years.
But one notable absence from this new frontier of Voice has been Apple. While they were the first to release a voice assistant way back in 2010 with Siri. They’ve failed to really capture the imagination of users like Amazon and Google have. Siri lacks the finesse and ease of use that Alexa and Google Assistant have managed to achieve just by their sheer ability to be ubiquitous. Not to mention the Homepod, Apple’s first move into the home voice assistant smart speaker market has been dogged by delays, derision at the units bloated price and lack of features when compared to the competition.
It’s worth noting though that it’s not the first time Apple has been late to market but still managed to dominate. Mp3 players were around long before the first iPod, and there were plenty of smart (albeit rudimentary) phone manufacturers before the iPhone. But in both cases, Apple still managed to release products that captured huge market share and redefined their individual market segments.
I think what should be more of a concern for Apple and Tim Cook is the effect that the delay of the Homepod is having on uptake and adoption of their Homekit API. Homekit the closed and highly exclusive Smart home eco-system is being trampled over by the likes of Amazon and Google. Thanks in part to a large number of devices across a wide price spectrum that play nice with both Voice Assistants. Apple will start to discover that manufacturers aren’t happy to fork out extra R&D costs to be HomeKit compatible when there is such a huge market of Alexa and Google Home users ready and willing to purchase their devices without the added hurdle of Apple’s strict approval process.
Apple has a lot of ground to cover to catch-up the with likes of Amazon and Google. Amazon has sold millions of their Echo devices, this holiday period alone. That gives the retail giant direct access to the homes of consumers who have now bought into the Amazon Echo system and will probably be hesitant to bother with Apple’s (at times) complicated Homekit system. Not to mention that Amazon has ramped up its development of Echo with reports that it now has a team of over 5,000 people working on the Cloud-based assistant. They’ve also made it increasingly easy for device manufacturers to integrate Alexa into third-party devices. Which we’ll begin to see more of over the next year. Expect to see TVs, third-party speakers and other devices with Amazon’s Alexa directly baked-in. Further making it harder for Apple to make a dent in the space, beyond it’s dedicated core audience.
It will be interesting to see how the Homepod fairs once it hits the market, and see if Apple can claw back the lost ground in a market that is set to dominate the tech landscape for some time to come. It might just be a little too late for Cupertino.
What do you think is it too late for Apple or will the Homepod be another iPod or iPhone? I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below.