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Sunday Soundbite

Is HomePod Apple’s Bing?

Chris Field
Chris Field

I have mixed feelings about Apple’s new device, HomePod. Obviously, I want one, because it looks cool and does some cool new things – but I wonder if this might turn out to be Apple’s Bing?

Because the company’s phones and tablets are so good, consumers are not replacing them at the same rate as they used to, so Apple is looking to diversify – and it would appear to make sense to have a device that enables it to stream its existing music services, as well as keeping pace with the growth of voice for search.

Problem is, there are already two dominant players in the world of search. Most people no longer search for something, they Google it; while Amazon is so dominant in many consumers’ lives that Echo is the gateway not just to Amazon, but to all of the companies and services that live within the marketplace.

Bing won’t survive, nor will Yahoo – and I would expect the new Apple device to go the same way. We are back to an old problem.

Remember loyalty cards? People started to get rid of them – or at least leave them at home – because they simply couldn’t accommodate so many cards in their bags or wallets. And once they were abandoned, they were no longer used, which is why the only game in town in loyalty today is apps.

More lately, we have had Amazon Dash buttons, of which there are now 300. Where are you meant to keep those in your home so they’re accessible? Mount them on a giant wall chart? Not going to happen.

So, voice makes perfect sense, and clearly we are going to be giving instructions to our devices more and more going forward, for both business and everyday life. But that doesn’t mean there is room for multiple devices in our homes.

And, as Apple is just entering the race, Amazon is already able to link to online services such as Tesco.com. Tell Alexa that you need toothpaste, and she will immediately add it directly to your Tesco online shopping list. Convenience at this level is bound to make it easy for the most powerful and prominent brands to dominate the space.

Amazon Echo isn’t perfect in terms of either content or technology, but they will catch up relatively quickly. Apple is clearly relying on its technological superiority, and there is a place for voice on its devices – but I just can’t see that the smart home will be able to accommodate so much visible technology.

Does any of this really matter? Why should I care if large companies want to try to compete for my dollar, as long as they keep bringing me great new tech?

What concerns me is that too many companies continue to see themselves as competitors, whereas if they were prepared to co-operate, they could achieve more growth together than separately, and carve out a much bigger customer base.

And I, as the customer, would get much smarter solutions much earlier, and avoid being used as the guinea pig for a whole host of expensive, transitional technology that will be abandoned in under two years.

I’m no geek, but my attic is already groaning under the weight of redundant technology. Can companies please just get better at doing what they do well, rather than trying to copy the other guy?

Or get together and bring me something really amazing?

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