It doesn’t take much to get into the talking speaker craze these days. Amazon did it with Echo by using a bunch of Pringles potato chip cans, and a smaller version made of Meow Mix cans, both stuffed with some electronics and a Wi-Fi connection to phone home.
These days it seems as if everyone wants a bit of the nascent talking speaker market made famous by Amazon’s Echo and Alexa. Barely six months ago I read a report about Facebook working on a smart speaker with a touchscreen; something like Amazon Echo Show, perhaps; haven’t it seen it in the wild yet.
Google introduced a few Home talking speakers; one cheap and one expensive. Now there’s word that Spotify might be ready to take on Apple’s HomePod with it’s own speaker; ostensibly for music, of course. What’s going on? Competition. Ben Lovejoy explains:
Apple isn’t afraid of competition. It launched HomePod into a market already dominated by Amazon’s Echo speakers, with the Google Home range in second place. But existing smart speakers were focused on smarts first, music second, while HomePod is all about the music.
Like it lump it, HomePod falls into the talking speaker arena even though it’s all about Apple Music and podcasts. Oh, and if enough people complain or don’t line up to buy it, maybe Spotify gets added to HomePod later.
What is this talking speaker craze?
After using Amazon Echo, loving HomePod music and podcasts, trying both Spotify and Apple Music, and ensuring that Siri works acceptably on Mac, iPhone, and iPad in the O’Brien household, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know what’s driving this so called craze other than technology writers and market analysts looking for something to occupy their time and worthy of getting paid.
That last part is just a guess.
Officially, talking speakers are a thing now, and perhaps three or four dozen-million have been sold to date, but they seem to fall into two categories. Echo is of the listen and speak side of the fence (not so good with music; the speakers are crummy). HomePod is of the music side of the fence with Siri’s kindergarten cousin added to the mix.
Without question, this talking speaker craze is about first mover advantage and that goes to Amazon. As usual, Apple is late to the party again but took a different approach with a focus on high quality sound vs. high quality Siri responses. In fact, Siri on HomePod– to date– is a bit lame, but that holds true for Siri everywhere else (more than 1-billion devices can handle Siri and Apple says Siri is active on about half those, so it’s not as if Siri is not being used, right?).
What I think is going on here is the training of humans to interact vocally with our technology. Siri didn’t exactly catch the world on fire, but neither did Microsoft Cortana or the oddly non-humanly named Google Assistant. Echo and Alexa are out there because Amazon pushed hard to make the technology available, but mostly to Amazon’s benefit and don’t forget the online company is just a big store trying to sell you stuff.
At least Apple is up front about HomePod. It’s there to help you spend money to listen to Apple Music.