This sounds to me like a regular Apple development process, and I also don’t see how the Echo and HomePod are in competition (Echo starts at $50, HomePod costs $300 more).
That said, the Echo – or rather, the built-in Alexa assistant – has changed what people expect from a “smart” speaker. As an audiophile-ish smart speaker, HomePod seems more in competition with Sonos, and the latest Sonos One – which has Alexa built in – is the product that blows the HomePod, as we currently understand it, out of the water.
Amazon announced their long-rumoured Echo with a screen today and frankly I think this thing is a dog, but what do I know.
So this is basically… a smart TV for your kitchen? Is there any other room in the prototypical house for which this would be an appropriate arrangement of screens and speakers? In a living room a TV would probably be better, on a desk a computer would be better, and in a bedroom basically any one of tablet/laptop/TV would be better. My problem is I haven’t tried a normal Echo, and I gather it’s distinguished by an unusually effective voice service, so maybe if I got hooked on Alexa I’d want one of these.
There are plenty of rumours now of Apple getting into this game, and Phil Schiller spoke up saying he thought screenless smart speakers weren’t that useful. But I don’t think that means Apple is bringing out a smart speaker with a screen. I think it means they’ll bring out a smart speaker that will send stuff to your Apple devices that have screens, which is pretty much all of them. Apple needs to bring Siri up to the level of Alexa, integrate more smart home stuff with HomeKit, and make Siri something that is essentially ubiquitous in your home (could be the speaker, but the Watch gets you 90% there), and it could dominate this category right quick. Easier said than done, I guess.
I don’t completely buy that narrative. The smart home world is young still, and Apple’s install base is orders of magnitude larger than Amazon’s. Wouldn’t you guess Apple will get into the speaker/AI/home hub game soon?