Amazon may have launched the smart speaker market with the introduction of its first Echo device a few years ago. But these days you can also opt for a Google Home with similar functionality, and soon you’ll start to find speakers that use Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant.
Apple wants in on the action too. There’ve been rumors for a while that the company was working on a smart home/speaker solution that uses Apple’s Siri virtual assistant software. Now Bloomberg reports that Apple could unveil the speaker as soon as next week, although it isn’t expected to ship until later this year.
So what would a Siri-powered speaker have that devices powered by Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, or Microsoft’s Cortana don’t?
According to Bloomberg, two things:
- A virtual surround sound feature
- Integration with Apple’s ecosystem
That first one sounds like a gimmick, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. The second one? That’s pretty important.
Amazon did just announce that its Alexa-powered devices would be able to sync with iCloud calendars. But Apple’s system will probably go much further by integrating with iTunes, Apple Music, iCloud, and HomeKit, just to name a few services that iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac owners may already be using.
Essentially, Apple already has an ecosystem of products that work well together. While you could certainly buy a Roku and use it in an Apple-centric home, an Apple TV might be a better solution if you’ve already invested in a bunch of Apple apps and services. Likewise, you’d get limited cross-device functionality if you purchased an Amazon Echo. But if you buy a Siri speaker? It’d just work… with all of your other stuff.
In that way, Apple’s first smart speaker doesn’t actually have to be better than the competition. It just has to sync with your other stuff better… assuming your other stuff comes from Apple.
But Apple does probably need to offer something in this space. If demand for smart home speakers continues to rise and Apple doesn’t provide its own solution, then iPhone and Mac users might opt for a competing product… and decide that when it comes time to sign up for a streaming music service, for instance, to spend their money on a Spotify, Google, or Amazon Music subscription rather than an Apple Music subscription.