Your favorite technology gadget maker is always fashionably late to the latest trend party. Yep, that’s Apple. Seldom the first with a product in a new category, often later than expected, and often the company that takes the prize and turns an industry segment toward a new direction.
Or, at least, that used to be what Apple did. History is rife with examples, too. The Mac itself changed personal computers from the keyboard centric command line interface to the graphic user interface of point and click. The iPod and iTunes combo were not the first portable music player and music management system, but Apple made it the one that mattered.
We see other examples, too. The iPhone. iPad. Apple Watch. Even AirPods. Apple is late to the technology party, but sets the example and that’s the direction that everyone else follows.
The latest example of a new category waiting for an Apple entrance is what I’ll call the home assistant, popularized by Amazon’s so-called successful Echo device with Alexa. The first Amazon Echo box was expensive. The next few models were less than one third the price. Somebody who counts such things think Amazon has sold a few million to make it a success in a new category that Amazon dominates. Google just arrived, and Apple remains on the sidelines while Amazon introduces product after product and ever more capability.
The Amazon Echo Show is the latest– it’s like Echo but with a 7-inch touchscreen. The $230 device has seven microphones that can take verbal commands from anywhere in the room. It has speakers so it can deal with Spotify, Pandora, Amazon’s Prime Music, control a few electrical devices and even call you a cab (if you don’t mind Uber).
Echo Show comes in white or black. Think of it as an Echo device with a small TV screen. Small? 7-inches. A television this is not. An iPhone 7 Plus has a 5.5-inch display. The original Mac had a 9-inch display. You’re not going to watch much television on this. Show also has a 5MP camera, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi for internet connectivity, Bluetooth, and more.
Typical for Amazon, capabilities are not quite ready for prime time, and many applications are still in development. That’s OK, because you won’t see Show until late June and it’s likely demand will be limited.
Yet, Echo Show is another invasion into the home space, which, for many of us, is dominated by Apple products. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple TV, and more. What’s missing from Apple is exactly the category that Amazon is pioneering. The home hub. Apple has HomeKit but requires an iPhone or iPad to control the few devices that make it worth consideration.
Amazon thinks the home is Apple’s Achille’s Heel. Yet Apple has 1-billion Siri-based devices on planet earth already, and each one can be updated with software. What’s to stop your iPad sitting on the living room table from doing what Amazon Echo or Show can do? Not much.
Amazon is selling a few million of these new Echo devices into the very homes where Apple products already exist. Where is Apple?