Apple HomePod: Let's Just Call It an 'Apple Music' Speaker

Some quick thoughts on Apple HomePod.

  • HomePod, which Apple claims to be in the development for last six years, definitely shows up in terms of the aesthetic design evolution though not much in terms of use-cases or functionality compared to the competition like Sonos, Bose, Amazon and Google which has taken over the home speakers market.
  • The custom-array of seven beam-forming tweeters, upward facing woofers, six-microphone arrays, auto room-sensing tech for better positioning of speaker to one-touch setup will definitely chime with audiophiles looking for a cutting edge but simple and holistic audio experience. Addition of Siri is a bonus for informational two-way interactive music experience.
  • However, HomePod is not designed or positioned as a SmartHome Hub or Speaker (yet..).
  • It’s merely being sold or positioned to extend the “Apple Music” experience beyond your phones into your home.
  • Apple is playing to its strengths here with HomePod.  The company is leveraging its success in the digital music ecosystem with iPod going from ‘i’ personal to ‘home’ shared.
  •  This is a clever ploy to get other home members also to attract/enter/use the Apple ecosystem more if they are not.
  • Apple still feels Music remains ‘the stickiness factor’ for the Apple ecosystem.
  • However, out of the 700 million+ iPhone user base globally, only 36 million have subscribed to Apple Musica mere 5% attach-rate.
  •  Siri is integrated to make the “musical” experience a bit more intelligent & the controls hands-free.
  • It will be natural that the rest of the industry, minus the Apple loyalists, will be comparing it with the latest intelligent & versatile conversational speakers.
  • Apple knew it would be difficult to compete with Alexa & Google Home & hence a mono-dimensional focused product.
  • Further, Apple also is in process of figuring out how to beef up Siri as Alexa or Hey Google or Cortana while maintaining its privacy and security stance, which has been and could be Apple’s biggest differentiation for users to stick to iPhones vs Android devices.
  • HomePod, like iPod, is a “closed music system” designed to lock-in users to just Apple’s ecosystem
  • Apple HomePod’s forced lock-in strategy to some ‘liberal Apple’ users will feel like ‘living in North Korea’ with no connections to outside world.  Though, it will not be as bad as North Korea is to its own citizens. Most living and breathing in the Apple world will still love it.
  • The 1st gen HomePod will limit Apple’s total addressable market (TAM) like it has always done with Apple’s 1st gen products.
  • The fourth gen+ models usually drive the major inflection point for Apple when it bakes in more tech, more capabilities, and disrupts the market.

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Neil is a sought-after frequently-quoted Industry Analyst with a wide spectrum of rich multifunctional experience. He is a knowledgeable, adept, and accomplished strategist. In the last 18 years he has offered expert strategic advice that has been highly regarded across different industries especially in telecom. Prior to Counterpoint, Neil worked at Strategy Analytics as a Senior Analyst (Telecom). Neil also had an opportunity to work with Philips Electronics in multiple roles. He is also an IEEE Certified Wireless Professional with a Master of Science (Telecommunications & Business) from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA.

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