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  • HomePod Fear Mongering: Can Ya Believe It?

    February 1st, 2018

    You must know that Apple’s soon-to-ship HomePod smart speaker is doomed to fail. This all comes before anyone outside of the news media has spent any time with one, so why?

    Well, maybe that it’s a couple of months late, thus missing the lucrative holiday season, that it’s extremely ate to the party compared to the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, and don’t forget the high price of admission.

    But don’t forget that Apple is not always first to market a new device.

    Forgotten in all this fear mongering is the fact that sound quality is reputed to be far better than the competition from Amazon and Google, thus justifying a higher price. So if you actually want a speaker system that you can enjoy on its own terms, rather than have something usually more useful in the background, HomePod may be just the ticket.

    Of course, you still have a price of $349, and double that once the ability to pair two of them in stereo mode is available.

    And don’t forget the issue of privacy. How many times have you seen a police procedural TV show where a mic is placed in a suspect’s home, or maybe the resident computer hacker keeps the cell phone on. Everything that’s said is monitored and recorded and, eventually, someone says something that provides evidence of the crime-of-the-week.  Now with Amazon and Google, what about the things you say in your home? With the Echo, you have to say Alexa to turn it on and make what you say accessible in the cloud, but have you wondered why police are reportedly interested?

    I don’t want anyone to listen to what I say in my home. The only mic I turn on is the one connected to my studio mixer, which I use to record my radio shows. I have no interest in sending my comments to third parties other than the guests and listeners to my radio shows.

    In any case, I’m not going to guess on how well the HomePod will do. Can it be compared to the original iPod, which debuted in 2001 for $50 more in a package that stored a mere 1,000 songs? With the HomePod, you’ll be able to play anything in your iTunes library, so you’re already ahead. And what about the failed iPod Hi-Fi which, by the way, also sold for $349.

    Well you can look at a potential click bait article from, surprisingly enough, Macworld, entitled “HomePod’s biggest problem isn’t Siri, it’s that it’s too much like the original iPod.”

    Oh?

    I honestly don’t think the piece is worth a link. But it starts by detailing Apple’s latest ad compaign for the HomePod, featured last Sunday on the Grammy Awards. But the main complaint is that the HomePod is, at present, designed to operate strictly within Apple’s ecosystem.

    So that limits its potential audience, but nothing new. Sure, you don’t need an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch to use an Apple TV. After all, iTunes is available for Windows and has been for years, and you don’t need iTunes to access Netflix.

    But Macworld’s blogger cites the fact that the original iPod debuted strictly with Mac support, but only towards the end of the article does he recognize the fact that it soon expanded to support Windows. That marked the beginning of Apple’s huge ascent to the consumer electronics stratosphere.

    So, yes, an iPhone probably functions best with a Mac, with support for Continuity and other integration features. But it will work on Windows too, and it is also true that the iPhone user base is many times that of the Mac.

    So would supporting Android provide the magic bullet to make a HomePod far more successful? Perhaps, but it would seriously restrict the features Apple can add that depend on its own ecosystem, and what about Siri?

    But the deal breaker in such a romantic theory is that Apple doesn’t need Android to build a successful smart speaker. In 2001, the Mac user base could be counted in the tens of millions. It’s still probably less than 100 million even though Apple has, in recent years, sold up to 20 million Macs per year.

    In contrast, there are hundreds of millions of iPhone users. What percentage of that user base needs to buy a HomePod before it becomes wildly successful? Why would Apple have to consider Android support? Certainly the Apple Watch became the number one smartwatch on the planet even though it’s restricted to recent iPhones. Its tight integration would make it near impossible to expand support to other platforms, but why does Apple need to bother?

    Indeed, one key reason to build products that only work with other Apple gear is to grow the ecosystem and revenue from Apple’s services. Unlike the original iPod, there is little if any incentive to open the barn door of Apple’s walled garden to satisfy the needs of the critics and Android users who might want to buy a HomePod or an Apple Watch.

    If the want to buy them, they know what they have to do. That’s two more compelling arguments in favor of switching to Apple.



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