Apple’s Phil Schiller hints at screen-equipped Amazon Echo killer
Enjoy the 70-percent lead while you can Amazon, because Apple’s coming to slay Alexa and the Echo. Well, it’ll try.
In an interview with India’s Gadgets360, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, dropped the first hints for its long-rumored smart assistant speaker that’ll reportedly be powered by Siri.
Despite refusing to talk about the Echo and Google Home, Schiller didn’t shy away from talking about voice-based devices as a whole. While he says Apple is heavily invested in Siri, Schiller talked up both the advantages and disadvantages of having a display.
Stating the obvious, Schiller described situations where a screen isn’t necessary and voice controls are better — like when you’re driving and can’t fiddle with your phone or dashboard, or when you want to control your music from across the room without getting up.
Other obvious comments: A screen’s useful for displaying visual content, like mapping and photos, and games.
“I think voice assistants are incredibly powerful, their intelligence is going to grow, they’re gonna do more for us, but the role of the screen is gonna remain very important to all of this,” Schiller said.
Reading between the lines, we can presume Apple’s Echo-killer will come with a screen. And that’d certainly be noteworthy if Amazon wasn’t also working on an Echo speaker equipped with a screen, which could arrive as soon as Wednesday.
The question isn’t whether Apple will enter this increasingly crowded smart speaker market (I’d bet good money it definitely will) or even what its speaker will look like (I’m sure it’ll be over-designed in typical Apple minimalist fashion), but whether Apple can succeed in the home.
If we’re to judge Apple’s chances in the home by its HomeKit platform, the company is basically screwed. Compared to other smart home platforms, HomeKit simply hasn’t gained much traction in the two years since its introduction.
But that’d also be misleading. Apple’s failure in the home with HomeKit is a combination of things, including tedious MFi device certification (which could take up to a year) for companies looking to build HomeKit-ready devices, and development tools that aren’t as friendly and open as Amazon’s Alexa API.
When Apple joins the battle, it won’t simply be fighting against a family of Alexa-powered Echo products, or Google Home, or the myriad other voice-controlled speakers like Harman Kardon’s Invoke, it’ll be fighting against entire platform swarms.
Can a Siri-powered speaker — however nice its audio fidelity — compete with Alexa and Google Assistant embedded everywhere? Apple’s got an uphill battle for sure, but it’s not impossible. Remember, Apple’s almost never first in product categories, but when it arrives, it’s usually on a tide.