Apple Said to Ready Siri Speaker in Bid to Rival Google and Amazon
Soon, a device embossed with “Designed by Apple in California” may be on your nightstand or kitchen counter, according to Bloomberg.
The iPhone-maker has started manufacturing a long-in-the-works Siri-controlled smart speaker, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple could debut the speaker as soon as its annual developer conference in June, but the device will not be ready to ship until later in the year, the people said. The device will differ from Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet’s Google Home speakers by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple’s product lineup.
Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple’s HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple’s network of services. That would help combat the competitive threat from Google’s and Amazon’s connected speakers: the Home and Echo mostly don’t support services from Apple. Without compatible hardware, users may be more likely to opt for the Echo or Home, and therefore use streaming music offerings such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Google Play rather than Apple Music.
CEO Tim Cook has emphasized Apple’s services businesses over the past 18 months as iPhone sales slowed. He expects service revenue to double by 2020 from last year’s $24 billion. A speaker may help keep customers loyal to service products such as Apple Music, a subscription music streaming offering that costs $10 per month. The speaker would likely be tucked into Apple’s “Other Products” category, which currently includes devices like the Apple Watch, Apple TV and AirPods. That set of products generated $11 billion in sales last year.
Inventec, the Taipei manufacturer that already makes the AirPod wireless headphones, will add the speaker to its Apple repertoire, the people said. Apple employees have been secretly testing the device in their homes for several months, they said. The Siri speaker reached an advanced prototype stage late last year, Bloomberg News reported at the time. An Inventec representative didn’t respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours in Taiwan.
Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room’s acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use. It is also likely that Apple will let third-party services build products for the speaker.