Apple’s recent measured plunge into the voice-controlled smart speaker market went as most analysts expected.
As usual, Apple sat on the sidelines and watched other companies, in this case Amazon and Google, establish a market and educate the consumer. It then took its time to determine the best and the worst aspects of the new products.
Apple’s engineers then descended into the Cook Cave (formerly the Jobs Joint) and did what they usually do, designed a product that will work seamlessly with its Apple iOS and product ecosystem. Many months later, the HomePod emerged, at a price tag much higher than the established competition. Business as usual out of Cupertino.
And you know what? I have no doubt Apple well sell a boatload of HomePods. Think what you want of the company, but there is no disputing it knows how to keep a customer’s loyalty. The universe of Macbooks and iPhones and iPads is not shrinking. It’s growing as robustly as ever.
Yeah, I know, the Watch was a disappointment, but it still outsold almost every other smart watch out there. And now that cord-cutting is becoming ubiquitous, the Apple TV will likely rise again.
Apple’s HomeKit and third-party partners have already staked a claim in the early adopter smart home market, but according to our data partners, namely NPD and WinkMcKinsey, the category is still in its infancy and poised to grow exponentially as awareness grows and the market matures.
As our household Windows desktop runs on its last circuits, much has changed in the eight years since I bought it. At the time, I had an iPod, a click-wheel Classic that could hold 160GB of music. That was the extent of my Apple holdings.
Fast forward eight years and we are a four-iPhone household. Both my wife and my older son have Macbooks. Both my sons get iPads from their school to do their homework and cut down on books, paper and their aching shoulder muscles straining under their gigantic backpacks.
But we’re not all-in yet. Because we love our Amazon Echo — so much so that after falling love with Alexa in our kitchen, we knew we needed to have her in the bedroom (in the form of Dots, and we mostly use them as alarm clocks ... get your mind out of the gutter).
Our slow transition to Apple acolytes is almost complete and the HomePod is almost an inevitable purchase when we are eventually ready to move into a new smart speaker, or expand our present wireless audio chain.
I fought it for years, as a cynical technology reporter, clinging desperately to my Android phones and my Windows laptops, winning what I thought was a personal battle against Apple and conformity as a whole. And I won many of those battles, but ultimately, they won the war.
Jeff Bezos may have gotten there first but it’s time for Apple to do what it does best, buck the conventional thinking and redefine the category.
I, older and wiser these days, have decided to welcome my conformist overlords. Why? Because the damn products work so well. And it turns out that even though he may have been gruff and hated by many, Steve Jobs knew exactly what he was doing. And Tim Cook has managed not to screw that up. Think different indeed.