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  • Dumb and Dumber HomePod Speculation

    March 14th, 2018

    It’s a known fact that Apple’s motives are often misunderstood by pundits and industry analysts. This may explain why the company often refuses to do what others demand that they do. Of course there’s always the possibility that Apple simply has better ideas, and its ongoing success ought to demonstrate that “troubling” fact.

    So we have the $349 HomePod, which shipped last month. It’s not at all certain how well sales are going so far. Some suggest it’s moving slowly, whereas Apple claims to be satisfied with the early demand. Actual figures won’t be revealed, same as the Apple Watch and other gadgets. After a quarter or two on sale, it may be possible to make some reasonable educated guesses based on total sales in the Other Products category, but not yet.

    The only possible clue is that there’s no apparent delay in getting one, meaning you’ll probably be able to buy one in white or space gray at most Apple dealers. That doesn’t mean that Apple is overstocked. It may just mean that supplies are in line with demand, whatever that is. New Macs are not always backordered either.

    Regardless, there are already a few stories suggesting what Apple might have in mind. Is it at all possible that a smaller HomePod is being developed, perhaps a HomePod mini? Is it something that would be priced in the $150-$200 range? Would it possibly arrive at the WWDC in June?


    Well, one reason is that the original HomePod debuted at last year’s WWDC, as part of a magnum opus of new product introductions that included a bunch of Macs and refreshed iPad Pros.

    Year after year, Apple critics insist that they must produce cheaper gadgets because the existing model is too expensive.But there is a cheaper Apple Watch without LTE. Older iPhones are kept in the lineup for two or three years. which lowers the starting price and reaches an audience that can’t afford the premium models. But these models were sold at the higher price when they were first released.

    There are a variety of Macs to be had.

    But there is only one Apple TV 4K in two memory configurations. Last year’s model, without 4K, is no longer being sold. The iPad lineup is slimmed out. In addition to a pair of iPad Pros, there’s a single 9.7-inch iPad and a legacy iPad mini.

    HomePod? Well, Apple made a huge deal of the fact that this is a speaker system designed mainly for music listening rather than to accept commands for Internet of Things appliances and such, although it will handle that chore. Why else invest so much to devise a clever auto-configure feature that allows it to adjust the sound to different listening environments?

    Certainly the HomePod has received credible reviews for its sound quality, ahtough some maintain it’s too bassy, in the spirit of Beats headphones. But maybe Apple will offer some built-in EQ options to better tailor itself to listener tastes.

    In any case, why is there a need for a smaller, cheaper HomePod? Well, the theory goes that Apple can’t compete with Amazon and Google, that’s why. That sounds awfully familiar.

    So the HomePod has no chance at success as a higher priced product. An Amazon Echo starts at $50, whereas a Google Home can be had for $100 or so.

    How can Apple possibly compete with cheap gear? If Apple hopes to dominate the smart speaker space, it must lower the price somehow. Does that make sense?

    Was the iPod cheap at the original price of $399? Did that stop it from becoming the number one digital music player on the planet not long after it was regarded as just an overpriced curiosity or indulgence?

    Is price preventing the iPhone from becoming the most popular line of smartphones on Earth? Sure, Samsung may sell more units on a given quarter, but they are spread across dozens of models. There are cheaper tablets than iPads, but that hasn’t stopped Apple’s tablet from leading the market. The same is true for the Apple Watch, and Macs, which are premium priced, aren’t being made cheaper to move more product.

    So why should Apple change its tune?

    Why should the HomePod herald Apple’s foray into delivering cheap smart speakers so you’ll pick theirs rather than an Amazon Echo? Why do so-called tech and industry pundits continue to demand that Apple race to the bottom, profits be damned, because they must compete in sheer numbers with Amazon and Google, even if they aren’t quite in the same market?

    That isn’t Apple’s business plan. They surely price gear fairly, even if some of it seems overpriced. But they aren’t selling on the basis of price. Otherwise, wouldn’t there be a $600 Mac notebook?

    I do not pretend to know Apple’s marketing plans for the HomePod. I suppose a smaller model might be in the offing. But it would have to be done for reasons other than just to compete on price.

    But why go on? This is all Apple 101. It’s too bad some people just aren’t paying attention.

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