Apple Inc. (AAPL) is doubling down on its new device – the HomePod – as a music speaker. "The thing that has arguably not gotten a great level of focus (in smart speakers) is music in the home. So we decided we would combine great sound and an intelligent speaker," said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
While rivals Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Google view their smart speakers as a means of getting into a customer's home, Cook said that Apple is already present in customer homes through an assortment of devices, from iPhones to iPads to desktop Macs. This freed up the company to tinker around with the sound capabilities of its smart speakers. The speaker features seven tweeters and a subwoofer, allowing for superior sound quality compared with other smart speakers. (See also: Amazon's Alexa Will Approach 71% of Smart Speaker Market: eMarketer.)
With a single speaker priced at $350, Apple might face an uphill task convincing customers to buy. Amazon's Echo is priced at $180 and Google Home at $129. But those speakers are not aimed at showcasing music-playing capabilities. According to reports, a more apt comparison would be with the Play:3 from Sonos. The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company's high-end speaker has a configuration similar to the HomePod and is listed at $199. In addition, the Sonos speaker supports 12 music-streaming services – the HomePod is restricted to Apple Music. (See also: Is the Price for Apple's HomePod Speakers Justified?)
The HomePod, however, has a leg up on Sonos with its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. During the interview, Cook said that Siri, the AI assistant that powers the HomePod, gets requests from 375 million devices. That's a significant number. Cook also touted the assistant's multi-language capabilities as a reason to bet on the AI features. The problem is that Siri has proliferated across multiple devices made by Apple. Thus, there might not be enough incentive for Apple enthusiasts to buy the HomePod to incorporate Siri into their lives. (See also: Apple's Siri Dilemma.)