A roundup of CES home automation and Apple accessory announcements

If you haven’t already, read this post from Ben Bajarin, Apple’s indirect presence fades from CES, which we linked to yesterday. From the post:

It is easy to say that because Apple was never present at CES that the show didn’t mean something to them or their ecosystem. It is easy, and correct to say that CES was not, or never was, a measure of the health of Apple’s products. It is, however, incorrect and dangerous to miss that CES had been, for some time, a barometer for the health of Apple’s ecosystem.

Now make your way through the linked MacStories roundup of cool CES gadgets and accessories. It does seem like the vast majority of CES announcements I’ve seen are Alexa first, HomeKit second.

Not sure I agree that this is a barometer of the health of Apple’s ecosystem. Instead, I see it as a marker of where the puck is now, not where it is going to be. Apple Watch is a perfect example of this. When Apple Watch first hit, it was lost in the glut of watch product. Over time, Apple Watch proved itself as a well designed, thoughtful product, while many of the cheap, competing products are no longer around.

Not saying that Alexa won’t win. But I am saying that it is simply too early to tell how this will all shake out.

  • JimCracky

    CES is not and has not been for a while a barometer of the health of Apple.

    Quick, what was the breakout product of last year’s CES?

    Didn’t think you’d remember.

  • electric_larry

    I mean, we’re all watching 3D TV’s now, right?

  • Herding_sheep

    I do think the overwhelming presence of Alexa and Echo does represent something on the whole. I hear about Alexa all the time now. People talking about it, more and more people getting one. Hell, I even hear the radio station at work constantly talk about their new Alexa skill. I also noticed the Alexa and Google Assistant apps skyrocketed in the App Store charts the day after Christmas. Which means a lot of people got Echos for Christmas.

    Its clear Alexa is gaining momentum, while Siri is no longer even a part of the discussion with mere mortals. While this isn’t saying much about iOS as a whole, they had several years head start over everyone else with Siri. They pioneered the modern “digital assistant,” and they squandered that entire multi year leap frog. Regardless of the technical comparison of Alexa and Siri (Siri better at interpreting natural language in more languages) none of that matters. Fact is, the broader US market is more excited about Alexa, and mostly doesn’t think about Siri anymore.

    That is worrying to me. The fact that Siri has not had a “2.0” moment in over 5 years. Talk show hosts used to refer to digital assistants de facto by Siri, and now say Alexa instead. Apple has to win back public consciousness when it might be too late. Apple needs another “wow” moment for Siri, and get rid of the reputation she’s gotten.

    • Mo

      But, again… what exactly does Alexa do for consumers, other than enabling purchases? Does it enable the range of activity and capability that, say, iOS now does?

    • Brad Fortin

      Siri did have a “2.0” moment on July 30, 2014 when Siri’s back end moved to deep neural networks, convolutional neural networks, long short-term memory units, gated recurrent units, and n-grams. Most people just didn’t notice because Apple didn’t issue a buzzword-heavy press release to advertise it.

      Wired had a piece on it titled “The iBrain Is Here—and It’s Already Inside Your Phone” back in 2016, it’s a good read.

      By the way, that’s nearly 2 years ahead of Google and Amazon’s similar efforts with their assistants, so Apple wasn’t “leapfrogged” at all.

      • Herding_sheep

        Again, notice where I said technology comparisons don’t matter. Siri may be technically more sophisticated (which it is), but functionally it still frustrates the majority of average users I know. Most of them don’t bother. However, they’re all more excited about Alexa. I’m not saying its justified. I’m strictly talking consumer perception and excitement.

        I want Apple to dominate here and make competitors look like amateurs. But I don’t live in a bubble.

        Alexa is gaining more third party support by the day, more consumer interest, and more consumer mindshare. Apples attempt to extend Siri to third party apps has not been much of a success so far. Selection is limited and not well-known by average users, nor do they care much. I tried to use a timer app that supports Siri, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. Thats a problem.

        I want Siri to be more accurate, more consistent, more functional, and gain more intelligence. I’ve noticed Siri LOSING one of its key features from launch. Conversational abilities and aware of context. For the life of me, I cannot get Siri to continue conversationally like she once did. If I say “whats on my calendar tomorrow.” Then follow up with “move it to next friday” she will reply with “cannot find an event called IT”

  • Mo

    Dave, I just took a look at that MacStories link. How are you making your comparison? I’m seeing a bunch more HomeKit-supported devices (or iOS) on that list than I am those for Alexa.

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