The success of Amazon’s Alexa, which has sold more than 100 million units so far, has demonstrated the potential for a smart home where an entire home may be controlled from a smartphone is more than science fiction. For Apple, this means they will have to play catch up with Amazon, a formidable task given the huge jump start Amazon has achieved. It’s not that Apple doesn’t have a history of smart home technology, it’s just that it is an abysmal one.
In case you missed it, and based on the sales of HomeKit you have, Apple had gone into an entry level mode with its smart home platform. In order for any smart home platform to be successful it needs to be supported by a myriad of third party manufacturers that sell everything from microwave ovens to home entertainment systems. But Apple being Apple, they are not in the habit of being compatible with anyone but Apple. The attempt to integrate the HomeKit platform with the various devices was met with disdain from manufacturers because it was so “unique” and most simply decided not to include the HomeKit compatibility in their devices.
Now Apple is back at it again after watching Amazon’s Alexa be met very favorably by consumers. The difference this time around is that Apple has found a way to get HomeKit compatibility installed on devices with fewer complications. If you read between the lines you will easily discover that Apple had to make some concessions to come to terms with companies such as LG and Samsung.
That brings us to the question of whether Apple can mount up major competition against Amazon and other major players who clearly have an early lead. There are several problems that lie ahead, including coming up with a price that is palatable for consumers and profitable for Apple. Their HomeApp can be installed on the iPhone, unlocking all the potential of HomeKit as you walk throughout your home. The app works with a microphone, so you can execute commands from anywhere in your home and HomeKit will obey. Alexa requires you to be in the same room.
Yet Apple continues to have the same problem year after year – a lack of significant innovation. This is particularly true with their iPhone as sales have slowed and there is nothing much to get excited about from the rumors connected with the upcoming new and likely pricier models. While Apple is not the only smartphone that has been hit with slower sales, the smartphone itself is no longer as tantalizing as it once was. Hardware features apparently have been maxed out unless you consider a folding phone a significant technological advance. Apple once led the industry in innovation but now is doing its best to maximize its profits off of what amounts to old technology.
But what can be easily missed is the decision to expand the use of the smartphone. It primarily has been thought of as a connection to the Internet rather than a way to make a phone call. Video use comes in second place on the importance ranking, and while many people are lost without their smartphone (sometimes literally) the major smartphone competitors need to extend its practical application for consumers. Requiring your smartphone to be an integral part of your domestic life is a way to keep the smartphone sales steady.
As a peek into the future, if Apple manages to be very competitive with Amazon in both price and features, Amazon will have to counter with s smarter or better smartphone. The alternative would be for Amazon to create a new Alexa design, which means the original Alexas will be headed to the scrap heap. This might take several years given the lead Amazon has, but for those who own and love their digital genies you might want to keep up on the current trends in smart home technology.
Can we expect a consumer war over the developing smart home technology trend? Ask yourself if – and how much – you are willing to pay to replace all your household technology in order for it to be accessible by a smartphone. Again, development of the concepts are still years away but maximizing the use of HomeKit or Alexa will likely require you to upgrade your home electronics devices. One possible way to assess your willingness to take things to the next level is looking around you home and taking note of how many devices currently are IoT (Internet of Things) compatible.
A problem with all of this is whether Apple is able to generate enough interest to not only interest consumers, but to be committed to it over the long haul. HomeKit version 1 was an enormous failure, and though they have apparently worked out the compatibility bumps the acid test will be how long Apple is willing to continue those business relationships when success is realized in dollars. The future of the smartphone may also be at stake with this experiment, so owners of Apple stock may want to carefully follow future developments in this area.