There is much talk about Apple released an Alexa competitor at WWDC and I, like many other people, am struggling to see how this could work.
One of the reasons people offer for the better Alexa and Google Home experience is that the microphones are stronger and that they are able to understand what you are saying more consistently because of this.
That is indeed true, but in my experience I can hold my iPhone very close in a quiet room and still Siri offers a haphazard and often bizarre experience. At times, it does not understand me, but by far the biggest problem are the limitations. Too many times I am told ‘Here’s what I found on the web…’ and too many times Siri simply cannot answer a question contextually.
In contrast, the Amazon products are rock solid in reality. I am constantly impressed by what they can do and our Echo has become a firm fixture that we use multiple times a day. From asking questions to playing podcasts and music, the experience is seamless, efficient and enjoyable.
Apple has to compete with products that are already doing what they need do very well. And Apple’s history suggests that this could be a struggle for a number of reasons-
My Echo Dot cost £49. Apple is not going to get close to that. The company may indeed produce a beautiful looking device with an excellent speaker, but price is important in such a consumer-led product.
Siri hasn’t improved much. To this day, as I have already mentioned, the general Siri experience is not great in my experience and if Apple had improved it, we would hope that those improvements would already be noticeable.
Finally, it is a market where the incumbents already work at a very high level. We look back at phones before the iPhone and older tablets and there was a lot for Apple to aim at. I don’t see that space in this arena.
So, I remain intrigued by what Apple may present to us, but also pessimistic that it will change the industry in a meaningful way.
Or, is something else going to happen?
All the reports of Apple’s rumored Siri Speaker have it targeting Alexa and Google Home, and at one level that makes sense. The Siri Speaker seems like it will be a voice-controlled device in your home that happens to be able to emit sound. But I think there’s a different target Apple’s going after: Sonos. Remember, this isn’t rumored to just be a voice-controlled device with a speaker thrown in for audio feedback. Reports peg this as a device which contains multiple, high-quality speakers. In early May, KGI Securities’ Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said:
We expect Apple’s first home AI product will have excellent acoustics performance (one woofer + seven tweeters) and computing power (similar to iPhone 6/6S AP).
Seven tweeters. Amazon’s Echo at US$179.99, by comparison, has one woofer and one tweeter, as does the $199 Sonos PLAY:1. Even Sonos’s Flagship PLAY:5 at $499 only has six speakers, though three of those are woofers (the remaining three are tweeters)… More at Mac Observer.