More from Apple WWDC: New HomePod to set the world on fire?

Apple to introduce new HomePod speaker / home systems control device for sale in December. Is this an Amazon-Google category killer, or an also-ran?

The new Apple HomePod. (Image via Apple's web site)

SAN JOSÉ, Calif., May 6, 2017 – In our Monday afternoon report, we listed the bulk of the new product information announced on the first day of the 2017 Apple World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San José.

Read also: WWDC 2017: Apple announces a slew of new products, options

After we filed our report, the information continued to flow, including a major new product announcement by the company, which proclaimed that Apple would “reinvent music” in individuals’ homes just as the now-venerable iPod did years ago for portable music devices. According to a business report from MT Newswires, Apple’s new HomePod speaker

“uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room, automatically adjusts the audio and is designed to work with an Apple Music subscription, Apple’s music streaming service.”

Rather late in the game, Apple has chosen to compete with devices like Amazon’s Alexa-Echo combo with the HomePod. The Apple HomePod purportedly adds superior music reproduction to the relatively recent multi-purpose speaker / home control genre. Also, according to the wire service report,

“As a ‘home assistant,’ Apple said that the HomePod would also enable users to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather and control their smart home devices both when they are in the house as well as remotely.”

Leave it to Phil Schiller, Apple Senior Veep for worldwide marketing to put the eyebrows on the sales pitch, claiming:

“‘HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a beautiful speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home.’”

The traditionally Apple-hating tech press has pooh-poohed this intelligent speaker / home control device as being yet another example of Apple’s “also ran” technology. But as we’ve often observed in this column, in the wonderful world of capitalism, it’s often the second or even the third guy to adopt a new technology that ends up raking in all the chips.

The “second man” strategy served Apple well when it’s iPhone first showed up – also derided as being late to the party. Although portable phones using Google’s Android OS greatly outnumber the iPhone today, Apple’s product is still generally regarded as best-in-class and, on a hardware basis, still sells an enormous percentage of portable telephony / computing devices worldwide, a number rivaled only by chief rival Samsung.

When you show up “late” with a new version of an already in-demand tech product, you generally benefit in your own product planning by having seen what attracts the public – and what turns them off – when considering the purchase of competing devices that came to the market earlier. This way, you avoid the teething pains, both technical and monetary, experienced by the first company out the gate, while anticipating what hot new product additions might poach customers away from the vendors who got there first.

And there’s one other big plus as well: With some frequency, the first guy off the new product chocks ends up struggling technically and financially due to the enormous R&D costs of developing an attractive and presumably saleable new product. That’s something that in dog-eat-dog Techworld can either lead you to Chapter 11 or a humiliating takedown by a richer competitor. We have only to look at the fate of companies like Nokia, Ericsson and Blackberry to see how that works in the portable phone / portable device market.

Reportedly, the new HomePod won’t be available until December, which may or may not be a good thing. A December intro of even an earth-shattering, world-changing home speaker / control device likely won’t make much of an impact on Christmas sales. But perhaps Apple wants to introduce this new device category slowly so that any initial missteps in the product won’t get the outsized bad publicity such flubs might get if they start malfunctioning at the outset of that season.

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In regular stock market trading, all three major averages are modestly down today, following through on Monday’s anemic action. Excuses given include Middle East political chaos, pending Congressional testimony by former FBI Director James Comey, and, of course, any number of Donald Trump tweets, particularly those aimed at London’s moral relativist, Muslim apologist mayor, Sadiq Khan.

More than likely, we’re seeing another installment of “Sell in May” syndrome. The market currently seems toppy, and may not re-ignite until or unless the Republican Congress actually manages to get something of significance done and sent to President Trump’s desk for signature.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17