To hear the nattering nabobs of technology negativism tell the story, Apple is doomed (again) because Amazon’s Echo and Alexa talking speaker system and platform is three years ahead of Apple’s unreleased HomePod.
Three years? Echo isn’t even three years old. Do you have an Echo? Do you know anyone who owns and uses an Echo? I thought so. For now, the talking home speaker market is nascent at best, probably destined to be a footnote to home technology history. It’s just not a thing (yet).
The leader in the talking speaker space is Amazon’s Echo with Alexa, the voice assistant. It didn’t take Amazon long to sprint ahead in number of Echo models, thanks to low prices and a lack of competition. Google’s new Home is, well, new, and subject to buy-one-get-one BOGO sales here and there so it’s not selling all that well. Amazon won’t tell how many Echos have been sold but based on the variety of models, the number should– should— be growing. Only Amazon knows and Amazon won’t say.
There’s the original Echo now under $80, the Echo Plus at $150, then Echo Dot for $30, Echo Spot for $130, Echo Look camera for $200, and the Echo Show with screen at $230. Can you name three other competitors? Well, Google’s Home, and soon, Apple’s $350 HomePod. I’m sure there are more.
Why isn’t the talking speaker thing a thing yet?
Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice
Oh, like my iPhone and iPad and Siri.
Call or message anyone hands-free with your Echo device.
Uh, Siri on iPhone and iPad again.
Fills the room with immersive, 360º omni-directional audio. Play music simultaneously across Echo devices with multi-room music
Alright, immersive sound. What’s that? It’s sound. Sound you can hear.
Controls lights, fans, TVs, switches, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, locks, and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, and others
Oh, I get it. Like Siri on iPhone, iPad, and HomeKit– and HomePod.
Answers questions, reads the news, reports traffic and weather, reads audiobooks from Audible, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules
And, supports other Amazon devices like Fire TV, et al. To be honest, the Echo television commercials which highlight cool things Alexa can do is compelling; an always on, everywhere device which always listens and puts verbal commands into actions. Like Siri, of course, but in some ways a notable improvement.
This talking speaker craze could turn into a trend whereby our devices listen all the time and respond to requests, queries, and commands. What’s the problem? Infancy. Guesstimators and estimators think Apple may have sold 24 to 36-million Watch models to date and that’s considered by members of the technorati elite politburo as a flop. Most of the same guesstimators and estimators think Amazon may have sold half that many Echo models and that’s the year’s biggest tech hit.
Uh, no. That’s not how math and business works.
The average Watch price tag likely hovers around $400 (perhaps more with band collections in vogue) while Echo averages perhaps $100. So, Echo sells less unit for less money and that’s a success?
Uh, no. that’s not how math and business works.
Here’s the deal. In home talking devices– like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, et al– are interesting, but they’re infants; pre-schoolers at best. Amazon is the first mover, therefore, the leader, but since when did Apple care much about being a first mover or owner of marketshare?
This talking speaker thing is interesting but it’s not really a thing (yet).