From this very thoughtful post by Neil Cybart:
When introduced at WWDC 2017, HomePod was marketed as an iOS accessory that will serve as the best speaker people have ever owned. The $349 price certainly reflects this accessory mindset. While Apple briefly went over how HomePod will be able to serve as a type of smart home hub, it was almost more of an afterthought. At its core, Apple does not think the only function for stationary smart speakers is to pipe digital voice assistants.
I don’t think stationary smart speakers represent the future of computing. Instead, companies are using smart speakers to take advantage of an awkward phase of technology in which there doesn’t seem to be any clear direction as to where things are headed. Consumers are buying cheap smart speakers powered by digital voice assistants without having any strong convictions regarding how such voice assistants should or can be used.
If the goal is to rely on a digital voice assistant, an Apple Watch wearer has access to Siri at pretty much every waking moment. When simply wearing an Apple Watch, Siri is instantly available everywhere in the home. The same kind of access to Alexa would require five, ten, or maybe even 15 Echo speakers spaced strategically throughout the home (another reason why Echo sales are becoming increasingly misleading – some consumers may be buying a handful of $20 speakers at one time). With a cellular Apple Watch, Siri is now available outside the home even when users are away from their iPhones. Meanwhile, Alexa is stuck within four walls – at least until Amazon unveils its Alexa smartwatch.
To me, this is the core flaw in the argument I’ve frequently seen that HomePod is competing with Echo and Google Home, that Apple is late to the game.
Another way to look at it is, Amazon is late to the game. The Echo is a big seller, no doubt, but it is Amazon’s ingenious mechanism to get their digital voice assistant shoehorned into the space with Siri and Googly (my name for Google’s identity free voice assistant) when their phone strategy did not catch on.
Read the rest of Neil’s piece. It’s very interesting. I’m looking forward to the HomePod, to getting a sense of Apple’s long term strategy here.