Reports say sales for Apple's HomePod smart speaker aren't doing well. DigiTimes reports the company has cut production orders from half a million per month to just 200,000. Part of the reason might be because Apple nailed the speaker part but not the “smart” part, says Mark Sullivan for Fast Company.
The speaker is nicely designed (of course) but from a functional standpoint it’s no reinvention of the smart speaker. Apple might argue that the audio technology in the device represents a reinvention of the smart speaker, adding that the research shows listening to music is the number one use of the devices. If Apple miscalculated on the “market fit” of the $349 HomePod, it may be because it overestimated the importance of the device’s audio, while undervaluing–and thus under-developing–the digital assistance functionality.
Apple did add some heavyweight audio tech to the HomePod to measure and customize the sound to the room where it’s located. That’s where it nailed the “speaker” part of the device, but the “smart” part is a different story. The speaker’s digital assistant functionality (Siri) lags far behind that of its peers Google and Amazon. This is where Apple’s late entry into the market really hurt it, because Amazon Echo and Google Home had already set expectations in people’s minds for the various things a smart speaker is supposed to do. And that’s where Apple didn’t check all the boxes. The HomePod integrates directly with Siri, Apple Music, iTunes, HomeKit (to control connected home devices), and iCloud. But something like the Echo’s vast number of third-party-developed skills is just not there. Nor can HomePod make phone calls (without an iPhone). Nor can it distinguish between different users (Apple is working on that). Nor does it allow Android phone users to play back their music via a standard Bluetooth connection.Read More