Apple made its long-awaited debut into the smart home space at WWDC this week, announcing its $349 Apple HomePod connected speaker with Siri. At the Wired Business Conference today in New York City, the exec behind Alexa—Amazon's SVP of Devices David Limp—explained how he thinks Apple's connected speaker fits into the landscape.
There's plenty of talk about pitting the features, pricing, and specs of Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo, and Google Home against one another. For Limp, the first thing that stands out about the HomePod is its price.
"It's definitely a premium product at $350," said Limp. "From our standpoint, it's a little different philosophically from how we're looking at Echo. We see these endpoints for assistants in every room. One of the reasons we came out with the Echo Dot was getting the price to under $50. If you think about putting an Echo in every room times a two-room apartment or an eight-room home…compared to $350 for HomePod you could have eight Dots with our three-pack."
Limp also talked about what Amazon has learned about the market and consumer preference as it has released and refined its Echo offerings over the past several years. One element he's curious to see how Apple handles is the very particular consumer preferences around speakers and sound quality.
"The second thing we learned [aside from pricing] is that people's taste in speakers are unbelievably personal," Limp argued. "It's like cars. What you like in terms of the bass response, someone else may hate because they listen to classical music and focus on the treble.
"You might like Bose, they might like Sonos," he continued. "Dot and Echo through Bluetooth and Audio Out can connect to other speakers. A Dot with the speaker of your choice seems like the right path for consumers. It'll be interesting to see if Apple comes to the same conclusion."
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As for whether Amazon would ever release its own premium speaker, all Limp said, cryptically, is that Amazon always aims to give consumers a lot of choice.
Alexa + Siri = Love?
One of the most interesting tidbits from Limp's interview at the conference was some insight on Amazon's philosophy about working with other players in the space.
- Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Smart Speaker Showdown Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo vs. Google Home: Smart Speaker Showdown
"Our view is not homogenous. No more so than the services in your house like where you buy your washing machine, or the choice of whether you shop at Nordstrom or Amazon. We feel it's a lot more of a web paradigm than an operating system paradigm," said Limp. "Our hope and our first efforts are to open up the environment with skills to augment Alexa. Over time you could imagine saying something like 'Hey Alexa, ask Siri this.'"
Limp said that's a very real use case, and that the differences between Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant ultimately shouldn't stop that kind of integration in the future. Amazon's stance is that it's open to integrations and making sure its software works with anyone's hardware.
"If Andy [Rubin] wants to use Alexa and his own assistant [in the Essential Phone], we'd be all for it. If Apple or Google want to call, I'm happy to answer the phone. I hope there's a day when that happens."
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