Apple announced today that it will not release the HomePod in December as planned – delaying the launch until “early 2018” instead. We believe that Siri integration – and, more broadly, digital assistant hardware – is more challenging than our phones may lead us to believe.
In line with our previous comments on HomePod, we believe Apple has a grander vision for HomePod than simply delivering a better sounding Echo. We expect the HomePod that will hit the market early next year to have deeper Siri integration than Apple initially presented. As it stands, HomePod will only handle music-related queries on the device itself, routing all other requests for domains like Lists, Notes, and Messaging through an iOS device. But we expect HomePod to be capable of non-music domains that will drastically improve on the voice computing experience that other smart speakers promise, but seldom deliver. We shouldn’t be all that surprised by the delay, as Tim Cook foreshadowed it in a Bloomberg interview shortly after WWDC saying, “One of the advantages that we have is that there are a lot of things that Siri knows to do from the cloud. We’ll start with a patch of those … and then you can bet that there’s a nice follow-on activity as well.”
Apple’s statement. “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”
Déjà vu. This isn’t the first time Apple has delayed a product release. Today’s announcement brings us back to April of 2007. Apple is working on the iPhone, set to launch in June, and planning on releasing Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard around the same time. On April 12 Apple released a statement saying, “iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price. We had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team. As a result, we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case, we’re sure we’ve made the right ones.”
“Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case, we’re sure we’ve made the right ones.” – Apple, April 2007
Did Apple make the right tradeoffs with HomePod? We think so – the damage to the brand as a result of shipping a half-baked product is greater than the potential benefit of pushing it out in time to capture holiday sales. The level of connectivity in Apple’s device ecosystem leads us to believe that HomePod will deliver a superior experience, and loyal Apple consumers will be rewarded for waiting. And the loyal Apple user base would have made up the vast majority of 2017 HomePod sales anyway. In the same Bloomberg interview post-WWDC, Cook added, “For us, it’s not about being first, it’s about being the best.”
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