It was announced last Friday (November 17th) that Apple’s highly anticipated smart speaker system, HomePod, the release date has been delayed until ‘early 2018.’
A spokesperson for Apple said:
"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," Apple said. "We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018."
Pulling out of Christmas rush is a serious move, and not one Apple will not take lightly, suggesting that the delay is being forced due to a crucial feature. Whilst Apple has a history of delayed launch dates (AirPods and Apple Watch) allowing competitors to dominate Christmas sales could seriously damage the success of the HomePod. Whilst the cause of the delay remained unidentified, there is one very likely culprit.
What do we know about the HomePod?
Significantly more expensive than existing competitors, Amazon Echo at £89 or Google Home at £79, the HomePod promises one thing these smart speakers do not have – quality sound, describing the development of the home system as
The HomePod will offer 360° room-filling audio, using its seven-speaker array of
The emphasis on sound quality could just be where Apple edge ahead. Focusing on the main function, rather than the technology extras, demonstrates to the customer Apple’s focus on the customer experience. Apple wants to perfect the sole function of the product before implementing all the smart features – but, thanks to the delay, this may be too late.
The sound capabilities were demonstrated at Apple’s WWDC conference back in June, but one feature was notably missing, an AI assistant. We are yet to discover Siri’s capabilities within the Homepod, and this could be the main culprit behind the delay.
‘Siri, define competition.’
Whilst the HomePod boasts an impressive sound system, the smart capabilities may not be on par with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
Fixing detrimental problems like voice recognition is allowing Apple AI efforts to fall behind. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa can handle more advanced requests and offer a slicker experience for the users.
Critics have often cited Google Assistant as the smoothest assistant to use. Not only this, Google has access to a treasure trove of data through its ecosystem of software, from search engines to Gmail, Google is often the first port of call for software services. Amazon’s Alexa may not be the critics favourite, but Alexa excels when performing tasks and its capabilities are growing by the day.
The sound quality may not keep Apple in the lead for much longer either. With the capabilities of Google and Amazon’s AI assistants growing by the day, developers have begun to focus on improving the sound quality, releasing or updating their smart speakers just in time for Christmas.
The new and improved Amazon Echo uses Dolby processing that ‘fills the room with immersive, 360° omnidirectional audios, and delivers crisp vocals, deep
Google’s Home Max output sound is said to be 20x more powerful than the original Google Home, with noise-isolating arrays to dominate over background noise. It is equipped with Smart Sound Technology to adjust the delivery of your sound based on variables such as room size, obstacles, speaker placement etc. Although it’s price point is $399, $50 more than the HomePod, Apple’s absence from the Christmas market may mean the price will not put off consumers.
Does Apple Even Need Launch Dates?
As previously mentioned, the delayed launch of the HomePod has not been the first slip up. It seems as if the company get too excited about their upcoming products and clumsily announce them without any confirmation on whether the product will actually be ready.
One ex-employee tweeted his frustrations with the delayed launches, voicing his concern on the impact they have on the image of the company.
Apple has built up a dedicated, loyal customer base in their lifetime, but when release dates are pushed back, some customers become disgruntled and look elsewhere. But, does Apple even need to promise launch dates to build hype? Probably not. Under the leadership of former CEO, Steve Jobs, Apple never failed to deliver as the never announced
Whilst Apple has missed out on the biggest gift-buying season of the year, it is very doubtful that the HomePod will flop. Google Home Max is likely to dominate the Christmas smart home market, but there will likely be Apple veterans out there who will no doubt hold out for the release.
Either way, it will be a few months longer until we see the full capabilities of the HomePod.
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