Mark Gurman’s bet: Why Apple’s HomePod is 3 years behind Amazon’s Echo

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

When the $350 gadget debuts early next year (on Friday Apple delayed the launch from December), the HomePod won’t be able to do many of the things the Echo can. Amazon offers thousands of “skills” (voice-activated apps) that let users do a range of things (including buy stuff from Amazon). The Google Home Mini, which debuted earlier this year, is similarly endowed. The HomePod will be mostly limited to playing tunes from Apple Music, controlling Apple-optimized smart home appliances and sending messages through an iPhone.

“This is a huge missed opportunity,” said one of the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. Apple declined to comment.

I’m just going to quote this Daring Fireball piece from 2006, which itself quotes a post from the San Jose Mercury News, but Gruber really brought this to fame:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

This pattern repeats itself over and over again. They’re not going to just walk in. Until they do.

My money is on Apple and HomePod here. This is not casting doubt on Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. But Apple has an obvious advantage, a real barrier to entry for both Google and Amazon. Even if they don’t reveal all their cards from day one, HomePod (and HomePod Mini, if such a thing eventually ships) will have intimate, private API access to the Apple ecosystem.

Silly to bet against that home court advantage.



  • Tom_P

    Don’t know HomePod will be a success or not but comparison to Echo is a bit silly. How many revenue Amazon got from Echo? They’re talking like Echo is an iPhone of a home smart assistant. It’s not. One of the main reason people bought Echo is because it’s cheap. Whoever buy HomePod will buy it for a very different reason. And really, anyone who let Google into their home with Google Home I will question their sanity.

    • ThinkActive

      You say that about Google. But I think inviting Amazon in is just as insane. Who could ever tolerate their private conversations being recorded and stored in a database. Forever?

      Stupidity of man never ceases to amaze. But, the silver lining is that the reparations Google and Amazon will one day pay for all this are going to be – gargantuan.

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  • Mo

    Colligan’s quote remains evergreen.

    Also, I’m guessing that both Echo and Home were designed to do intrusive, presumptuous things that Apple would never want HomePod to be capable of.

  • Also, HomePod will have a much wider geographic availability right away than Amazon Echo and Google Home.

  • Sheesh, Gurman really went downhill once he went to Bloomberg. He really doesn’t understand Apple’s way of doing things at all.

    • freediverx

      He has a knack for revealing some previously unknown Apple product details. But his narratives and analyses have always been laughably wrong.

      • Janak Parekh

        That knack also consisted of connections inside Apple. I’ve heard from various Apple bloggers that said connections were found out/terminated and ever since (around the time he moved to Bloomberg, in fact) his accuracy has gone way downhill in the first place.

  • Kenny Tavares

    I think the way other companies have scrambled to upgrade their products after Apple’s announcement is an indicator that this product category is soft. These devices are cheap enough to buy as a gift, but the recipients don’t always take to them. If Apple gets it right, they’ll catch up quickly. I think their competitors know it, too.

  • brisance
  • Colin Mattson

    It’s especially silly to bet against that home court advantage when Google totally squanders theirs.

  • JimCracky

    Gorman is full of crap.

    Homewood is also full of crap.

    • John Kordyback

      You really need to get off the fence. What do you really think?

  • Geek Life 3.0

    As always, the mainstream press misses the main point, which is that one product (HomePod) is a high-quality audio device that happens to have Apple’s digital assistant built-in because every Apple product does, and one product (Echo) is an advertising interface that happens to play music. This is comparing (in the immortal words of Oliver Wendell Jones) oranges to Buicks. There may be some overlap, but they are completely different products.

    One fills your room with high quality sound in a way that just works. The other lets you buy stuff and/or collects information about you to sell you stuff. How they can be compared is beyond me. BUT, if you do compare the part that really does overlap, I can tell you that the Echo sounds like ass. It’s dreadful for music.

  • rick gregory

    Set aside the privacy issues for a moment. Hell, let’s pretend that everyone is just as good as Apple on this.

    I thought of buying an Echo Dot this weekend. $30… it’s basically disposable at that price. But I didn’t… because I can’t think of a single thing I want to do with it.

    Before someone says “Home automation!” – yes, you can do that but you need to invest money in automatable things. Once you start that, you’re not spending $30 you’re spending $30 plus hundreds (to get anything meaningful). Asking basic questions like the weather or something? I can do that now with Siri on various devices.

    The HomePod has an immediate use without anything else connected to it. Play high quality music. If you’re thinking of buying a Sonos Play 1 or 3 to get good music… HomePod competes there.

    I wonder, frankly, how many echos, esp the Dots, just sit there barely used or not used at all.

  • Jurassic

    Apple’s HomePod is three years behind Amazon’s Echo in the same way that Apple’s first iPhone was five years behind Blackberry. 😉