HomePod is out and I bought one. Sight unseen. I don’t do that often, even with Apple products, but the reviews are in, HomePod sounds great to critical reviewers, the Apple Store speaker environment will suck, so I bit the bullet and clicked Buy.
History As Teacher
As is often the case with new Apple products, reality is divided into steps. The first rush forward is from critics who know better what Apple should have done, and are eager to criticize an unreleased product as doomed because competitor offerings are better.
The second rush is from early reviewers. Apple seeds those carefully to ensure a good response and that seldom fails. Early reviews for HomePod are positive. Sound quality is better than any competing device. Differentiation is a key factor in product marketing and HomePod is not Google Home mini or Amazon Echo or whatever.
HomePod isn’t built to track you online, or to get you to buy more stuff from Amazon, though you may want to subscribe to Apple Music or rent more TV shows and movies from Apple TV. Nicholas Clairmont has a thought regarding history:
According to Santayana’s philosophy, history repeats. The phrasing itself certainly is catchy. It’s a big one, not only because it is so common, but also because if it is true and if history, driven by human nature, is ugly (hint: it is)… The sentiment that history repeats aspires to common sense and is hard to disagree with.
So, let’s look at some Apple history to see the before and after picture.
The Mac was widely criticized by tech pundits of the day who cried “Nobody asked for a mouse!” Uh huh. What do we use these days to point and click on PC screens? Mouse or trackpad. Same thing. Remember those Apple Stores that opened near the end of the last century? Doomed was the prognostication. The reality became different. Apple Stores are the most prosperous on the planet.
What about the iPod and iTunes? More doom, right? What happened? iPod and iTunes Music Store ruled the music industry for more than a decade and introduced a few hundred million Windows PC customers to Apple Stores. And the Mac.
What about iPhone? That’s a more recent story but with a similar beginning and end. iPhone was criticized ad nauseam as being too expensive, too Apple centric, and it didn’t have a hardware keyboard. What happened? All smartphones today look like iPhones, which is the most profitable line on planet earth.
See a pattern here?
Apple Watch seems to be following a similar fate. Criticism came first, early adopters loved Watch, Apple improved the device and sold more. Now Watch dominates. The entire watch industry.
So, here we are on the cusp of home-bound talking speakers as a thing, and the industry leaders are not Apple. As always, Apple is behind. Amazon and Google have raced ahead. How does Apple differentiate HomePod? Not Siri vs. Alexa vs. Assistant. Sound. Reviewers are consistent. HomePod blows away the competition with superior sound.
Wanna bet what happens to the talking speaker industry over the next few years? Better sound. As always– Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, et al– Apple won’t sell the most, but Apple will own the industry segment’s revenue and profits. Oh, and Siri will improve. Apple will sell more Apple TV units and customers will buy, rent, and stream more TV shows and movies than ever before while Apple Music overtakes Spotify as the music industry darling.
We’ve seen this story before and now we can see it again. Apple’s history is Apple’s present and Apple’s future.