CUPERTINO, Calif. — With the success of Amazon’s Echo, and that of Google’s Home and Home mini, many may be wondering just why Apple doesn’t have a product in this space. Well, turns out they’ve been working on one, to be called Homepod.
Apple audio engineers had been working on an early version of the HomePod speaker for about two years, since 2014 when they were blindsided by the Echo, with its voice-activated assistant named Alexa, according to a recent article in Bloomberg. The Apple engineers “jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together.” They quickly deemed the Echo’s sound quality “inferior” and got back to work building a better speaker.
Two years passed, and Echo became a hit with customers. Meanwhile, Apple “dithered over its own speaker, according to people familiar with the situation.” The project was cancelled and revived several times, while going through multiple permutations (at one point it stood 3 feet tall) as “executives struggled to figure out how it would fit into the home and Apple’s ecosystem of products and services,” according to the same article.
The $350 HomePod, which will debut early next year, won’t be able to do many of the things the Echo can, according to Bloomberg. Amazon offers thousands of “skills” (voice-activated apps) that let users do a range of things, and the Google Home Mini is similar; however, the HomePod will be mostly limited to playing tunes from Apple Music, controlling Apple-optimized smart home appliances and sending messages through an iPhone.