Apple Delays HomePod Smart Speaker System, Needs ‘More Time’

How hard is it to design a smart speaker system? Apple just showed us that if you’re trying to design one properly, it’s a little harder than anyone else thought. How? It said it needed more time to get its June-announced HomePod product right.

Give me just a little more time

An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch:

“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”

This is all rather interesting. (And kudos to the company for using the pre-Thanksgiving Friday to quietly release the bad news).

After all, if any product seemed custom-made for the Holiday shopping season it had to be the HomePod. Perhaps the company wanted to ramp-up its security credentials?

Maybe it just hopes to connect the release to the next big thing in Apple Music? Might it simply want to sell the system as the essential companion device to the next thing in Apple Movie Rentals, linking it up to Apple TV? Perhaps, you know, it just can’t get the parts? Who knows. Do you know? Because, to be honest…

I. Have. No. Clue.

What I do know is that once the system ships Apple will be pushing as hard as anything to get the device into both its key audiences: older people, and younger people (ie. Everyone).

The bid for older people will be more than the convenience of Siri, while for the youth the idea is most certainly still All About The Music.

Meanwhile, of course, Amazon is seeding the market with cheap as chips fire sale prices on its own smart speaker solutions, and Google is just being Google and photocopying itself into oblivion.

So, it looks like we’ll be waiting for a while (though not so long as we’ve had to wait for the Apple Car bubble to explode).

Meanwhile here are some of the things you should be able to do with your HomePod system once it does ship.

  • Hey Siri, who’s the drummer in this?
  • When does [team] play next?
  • How windy is it out there?
  • What time is it in XXX?
  • Set a three-minute timer?
  • Text [name] meet me at [insert time]
  • How long will it take to drive to [place]?
  • Remind me to…
  • What’s the football score?
  • What are the most popular mountains in?
  • What is the best local Thai restaurant?

Here are some tech specs:

  • 7 beam-forming tweeter array
  • 1 4-inch, Apple-designed woofer
  • 6-microphone array
  • 11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
  • Multiroom speaker support with AirPlay 2
  • Capacitive touch controls on device

You sort of know it will probably be pretty good once it does arrive, though, right?

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

1 Response

  1. Harvey Lubin says:

    The delay of Apple’s HomePod may have nothing to do with Apple’s ability to deliver new products on time (to meet Apple’s own arbitrary deadline for release). In fact, it is probable that the announced delay may have nothing at all to do with Apple.

    The phenomenal demand for some of Apple’s recently released products, including the Apple Watch 3, iPhone X, and iPhone 8 Plus, has taken Apple (and everyone else) by surprise. Apple’s suppliers have been put into “overdrive” trying to churn out these products, as well as Apple’s other products like iPads and MacBooks that have been increasing in popularity (as evidenced by the recent quarterly report). And with the iMac Pro, another major new product, to be released in December adding to suppliers’ loads, it is highly probable that those assemblers have reached a limit in production capacity, even with the hiring of additional seasonal workers.

    The most likely reason why Apple has had to delay the launch of the HomePod is that Apple had to prioritize its suppliers’ production load. The HomePod (rather than the iMac Pro) was the most likely candidate to delay in order to not unnecessarily slow down production and delivery of Apple’s other important products.

    Apple’s suppliers have a finite capacity for assembling and delivering Apple products, and no contingency plan can overcome those limitations. If for example, we take just one Apple product, the iPhone X, and realize that the silicon fabricators, parts manufacturers, shipping and delivery, and assemblers are currently producing millions of units of that one product every week, it is easy to imagine just how challenging it is for Apple to meet demand for all of its products simultaneously.

    I think that it is highly probable that Apple has already completed all of the R&D requirements for the HomePod hardware and software. The HomePod is likely ready for production right now, but Apple had to make a strategic decision to delay that production in order to better fulfill the timely deliveries of Apple’s other products.

    Apple is in the enviable position of having to delay a new product (which as you wrote, will affect Apple’s holiday sales of that product) to allow the expeditious delivery of Apple’s more crucial, and more sought-after products.

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