Amazon Open To Bringing Siri Onto The Echo

HomePod will hit the market in December.

Earlier this week Apple unveiled the aptly named HomePod, a speaker that stands seven inches tall. Apple said HomePods can pick up the commands from across the room with a 6-microphone array (compared to the Echo's 7 microphones and Home's 2 microphone).

Apple explains it as "Apple-Designed Home Music Speaker with Amazing Sound Quality and Intelligence". The company says HomePod can adapt its speaker output to the room it is in, so feel free to put it on a shelf or in the corner - it should sound just as good.

The Cupertino, California-based company said Siri, which also competes with Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google Assistant, will now work across devices. Of course, HomePod has some shiny, innovative features like scanning your room to configure the sound to the flawless frequency, but again, these are some a few features Apple rolls out in its devices to justify its outlandish prices.

To most consumers, that's all that's going to matter-that this speaker sounds great. One of its key features will be its ability to play music on demand, making it direct competition to Sonos' Wi-Fi-enabled speakers which are hugely popular. Ditto for the Apple TV, where Siri functionality arrived a few upgrades after launch. "The HomePod is built to play best with Apple Music, with Siri able to answer extra contextual questions like 'who's the drummer in this?" or "when was this recorded?" for Apple's service, along with logging your tastes across devices when you say "I like this song".

The HomePod will go on sale later this year and costs $349. The Amazon Echo and Google Home are under $200, but Apple folks argue that the higher price tag is worth it. Amazon's (AMZN) record-breaking Echo speaker, which it can't make fast enough, and Google's (GOOGL) Home speaker were top dogs in a new category.

Given that in recent quarters, Apple has struggled with tepid iPhone sales, it may be hoping that the HomePod will help fuel its revenue growth. Where Apple is really focusing on differentiating the HomePod is in pure audio quality. For that job Apple has programmed this speaker with some powerful machine learning algorithms.

Google and Amazon are both miles ahead in terms of product development, user familiarity and even basic capabilities. Nothing wrong with that approach at all. The Apple HomePod only works with the Apple HomeKit. They care about the audio experience perhaps more so than they do the home control experience. As a commerce platform, Amazon's path to profitability is more about the products it sells through Alexa than the Alexa products themselves. It's clear Apple believe the sleek design it's become synonymous with and better audio performance (and well, a product being "Apple") means people will be willing to pay a premium.

  • Carolyn Briggs