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Apple's Stumbling HomePod Isn't the Hot Seller It Wanted (bloomberg.com) 98

The recently-released Apple HomePod smart speaker is not selling very well. According to Bloomberg, "By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec, one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple." From the report: At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike." During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales.

Apple's Stumbling HomePod Isn't the Hot Seller It Wanted

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    What Apple needs to do is dig Jobs up and do a weekend at Bernie's type of thing. They can splice together old product release speeches.

    Apple can explain it with some sort of variation of the Elvis myths. "Yeah, Jobs was alive all along. He was hang'in with Elvis!"

    Then sales will be good.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      TBH, sales will be good one way or another. It's just gonna take time for people to adopt. This product will NOT be a flop.

      The Look and feel is top notch. The glass on top is sort of frosted, but is smooth to the touch. When I first reviewed the home pod, I noted that it was light. I was comparing it with the heft of my KEF speakers. This thing, as small as it is, weighs 5 lbs. Which is quite dense, and heavy for its size. The Fabric that wraps around it is sturdy, reinforced from inside, and feels very
      • ...because of the onboard DSP, you must feed it digital files. So analog input from something like a Phono is out, unless your Phono Preamp has a digital output which can then be fed to the HomePods in realtime via airplay, possibly through a computer. But you cannot give the HomePod analog audio, as the DSP which does all the room correction requires digital input.

        So all you hipsters with vinyl turntables will have to feed the audio to the 1960 version of HomePod. Oh, wait - there wasn't one!

      • by dannys42 ( 61725 )

        I agree with your assessment. I was really waiting in anticipation for the HomePod mostly because I think Apple made a good decision about focusing on the sound quality and (relative) affordability. Personally, I'm not all that interested in the "smart" aspect of it. Sadly, as much as I love Apple products, the AirPlay-only option is just a deal-killer for me. I think the HomePod really would have made a huge dent in the market that everyone else was missing... namely a simple and affordable way to get

        • But that would be a completely different product. If you want a stereo system that hooks up with wires to existing av devices, there are already thousands of devices that would suit your needs better. Why hook up your home audio system to a single-speaker system? Wouldn't you want at least two speakers?

          Personally, I think a lot of bookshelf systems starting as low as $200 have pretty good sound. While I wouldn't *want* to use my Edifier bookshelf system as my main stereo at home, it's perfectly servicea

          • by dannys42 ( 61725 )

            I know the HomePod isn't exactly this, but here's what I really want... I reasonable surround stereo system that I can just plug my equipment into and really not have to mess with. The problem with existing solutions is that I have to get a receiver with x inputs (that part is fine), but then every time I want to use one device or another I have to switch the receiver to that source. I really want a system where I don't have to worry about a remote normally... If I switch to my DVR, it should "just know"

    • That's the problem. It's a Jobs type product. It's expensive and it only works with Apple services.

      It's one thing 18 years ago when digital music was still starting out, totally different today.

      It probably does sound better than Alexa but you can't play spotify or anything else on it

      • Sure you can play Spotify with it. Just buy an iPhone or iPad and use airplay to stream to it. Of course you already have to have one of those just to set it up. Out of box setup is iOS only. Not even Mac OS.

  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:10AM (#56436255)
    My understanding was that the "smart" capabilities of this thing were extremely lacking and that the main reason to get one is that the sound quality was decent for what it is. It sounds like the hardware is fine (albeit pricey, but it's Apple so what else did you expect) but that the Siri functionality is what's lacking.
    • by eminencja ( 1368047 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:55AM (#56436373)
      I think Apple got it all wrong. They should have released it without Siri. Not only would the speaker have made it to the market much faster but also the lack of Siri would be seen as an advantage in view of the recent privacy concerns.
      • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @10:12AM (#56436437)
        I'll give you that. I've stayed away from all of these since I have no interest in an always on, always listening digital assistant (or whatever they're called) due to the potential privacy concerns. I don't think Apple will do it as they're not going to charge less for a dumb speaker that doesn't cost them less to manufacture because I suspect that most people would buy that version instead of the premium version with Siri.

        Apple's other problem is that unless you're already part of their ecosystem, this speaker probably isn't that useful. I guess you could just put your music in iTunes and use it to stream stuff, but there are plenty of much cheaper boxes that can be used to stream a music library through an actual stereo system.
      • I think the bigger mistake was marketing it as a competitor to the Amazon Echo. From what I understand, it's really more in line with a high-end Sonos device with a Siri-based voice interface. You're right that the addition of Siri is probably unnecessary, but it's because I doubt any of the people who are buying it are buying it for Siri.

        Now admittedly, my opinion is that all of this "virtual assistant AI" stuff is gimmicky nonsense. It's not advanced enough to be truly useful. Like VR in the 90s, the

      • They should have released it without Siri.

        So a shitty single speaker faking stereo around the room? If I wanted over priced junk like that I'd buy Bose.

      • I think Apple got it all wrong. They should have released it without Siri. Not only would the speaker have made it to the market much faster but also the lack of Siri would be seen as an advantage in view of the recent privacy concerns.

        Everyone who can be suckered into buying an overpriced speaker already has something from Bose and won't buy something from Apple unless it's got Siri.

    • Yes, exactly! I have a great deal of Apple gear but for the life of me I canâ(TM)t figure out what to do with a HomePod.

      - Itâ(TM)s great as a speak but as AirPlay 2 is delayed my Sonos system is far better.

      - It canâ(TM)t be used as a general purpose assistant. It doesnâ(TM)t recognize individual speakers. It has poor security.

      - Itâ(TM)s reasonable as a HomeKit assistant but that alone isnâ(TM)t adequate to justify itâ(TM)s counter space, never mind the price.

      I expect, even

    • That is correct. Alexa seems to get answers right more often than Siri. Seems like Amazon listens to every question and makes sure there is an answer next time, sort of like good customer support should do. Siri says it does not know the answer and Apple doesn't add answer later. In the smart assistant game Amazon is slaughtering Apple and Apple could be in real trouble if Alexa sales continue like this and Amazon tries to make a decent smartphone again in a few years.
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:11AM (#56436259) Homepage Journal
    Homepod = $350. Amazon Echo = $85. Market share isn't important if you are losing money on every sale.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If Amazon's market is selling these to customers, then customers earballs to advertisers, they aren't losing money. If Apple is selling it to customers, but customers don't find it a compelling part of their Apple Experience(TM), then they are losing money.

      The biggest problem with these is Apple decided to me too it, instead of looking at how the iPhone was handled and going 'We are going to wait 1-2 years and make this device so compelling that everyone who already has a smarthome module is going to buy th

    • by dk20 ( 914954 )

      You have evidence that Amazon is losing money on every sale?

      There is a reason Apple has the most profitable products.. they sell for way above cost. Perhaps Amazon's echo/dot have less markup and they make it up in volume?

      • Possibly. The point is that you have a lot to make up in volume if you are making $10 per unit while someone else is making $300 per unit. I would much rather make more money per unit. The problem with big volume is there is a lot more hassle. More support needed, more returns to handle, bigger manufacturing runs, more warehouse space, etc.
        • by dk20 ( 914954 )

          addording to this teardown : https://www.abiresearch.com/pr... [abiresearch.com] they are doing OK with margins.

          Apple imight be attempting to make $300/unit, but based on the article not selling well.. Amazon makes $15 on their cheaper dots and are selling them like crazy.

        • The point is that you have a lot to make up in volume if you are making $10 per unit

          For each Echo unit, Amazon makes $10 cash plus $1000 for selling your personal information to marketers.

    • That's just it. Comparing it to Alexa is silly considering the incredible value Alexa can provide through online shopping. They are sold at a loss to drive more sales through Amazon. What can Apple hope to achieve if they are compared against that?

      As much as I like shitting on Apple, their market share with the Home Pod is bigger than Google's Home Max which is about the only product directly comparable.

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      I really doubt Amazon is losing money on the the echo or echo dot.

      Bluetooth speakers of that size with a microphone are regularly availably for that price from multiple brands.

      Adding the Alexa ability can't possibly cost that much.

    • Amazon makes money from people ordering Amazon products through Alexa. Also it's a new "app" marketplace they can start charging app developers to use.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who wants to purchase a product that leaves marks on furniture? The sad thing is that Steve Jobs probably would have completely recalled the product if it was leaving marks on furniture. I don't know how it is acceptable to just keep shipping the product.

  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:23AM (#56436283) Homepage
    I wish I could find the post, think it was 9to5mac or similar, but they stated they'd been told the HomePod was originally a skunkworks product by the audio people. It wasn't a smart speaker, it wasn't even a product as such. It was a skunkworks high quality speaker.

    This shows. Everything compares it to things like the Echo, but according to what I reads that' the wrong way round. The Echo is Alexa with a speaker bolted on. The HomePod is a speaker with Siri bolted on. The market for expensive speakers is likely much smaller, and it doesn't help that reviews keep pitching it against the Echo - Echo sound quality is reputedly nowhere near the HomePod, but Alexa can do more than the HomePod Siri.

    It's a confused offering, and it's Apple's fault that this is so. Not the original skunkworks - by all accounts they've succeeded and produced exactly what they were trying to do, great sound from a smaller form factor. No, for once this is a product and marketing failure. It has been positioned wrong, it has been released without obvious features (no bluetooth? C'mon...), it has been priced high which might well be deserved from its sound alone, but it has been allowed to be seen to be an Echo competitor. Worse, an Echo also-ran.

    As I write this, I'm listening to SomaFM playing on an iPad 2 attached to a good quality speaker dock. I thought the HomePod might be a nice update. I actually am the target demographic for once. But naah - I'm not in for this as it stands. Needs to let my daughter's Android phone play too, needs to allow third party services so I could use SomaFM on it directly...arguably it could even do with a simple display. At the moment, I see my iPad-2-plugged-in-to-a-speaker-dock as a far better solution, and that should make Apple's product people give some serious thought to what they've released.
    • Hey, out of curiosity, which speaker dock and you using and how do you like it?

      • by mccalli ( 323026 )
        JBL OnBeat [jbl.com] - old 30 pin ones. Excellent sound, and I sometimes swap out the iPad and put a bluetooth to 30 pin adapter in to have pure streaming off the phone too.
        • Thanks for the reply. been looking for a decent speaker dock and will take an actual recommendation over 25 anonymous reviews online.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wish I could find the post, think it was 9to5mac or similar, but they stated they'd been told the HomePod was originally a skunkworks product by the audio people.

      Pet peeve: the real meaning of "Skunkworks" has been twisted to the opposite of it's original ("true") one.

      What most people think it means that people worked on something clandestinely, without official approval or knowledge.

      What is actually means is:

      Everett Rogers defined skunkworks as an "enriched environment that is intended to help a small group of individuals design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures."[2] [...] Since its origination with Skunk Works, the term was generalized to apply to similar high-priority R & D projects at other large organizations which feature a small team removed from the normal working environment and given freedom from management constraints.[3]

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunkworks_project

      Basically a company realizing they need something different, and fast: so they (officially!) pull people out of other groups and lock them in a room so they can sprint toward a solution without other distraction

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's positioned as a competitor to other high end smart speakers from Google and several others. The problem is compatibility.

      It doesn't work well with anything other than other Apple products. It doesn't work well with apps other than Apple's. It doesn't even have a simple line in.

      Even if you are stuck in the Apple ecosystem, you have to use Apple services too. It's double lock-in and apparently Apple found the limit beyond which most consumers will not go.

      And yes, Siri is not very smart either.

  • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:30AM (#56436295)

    "KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales."

    Like with the first iPhone and the Apple watch, they need to upgrade the software to match the hardware, NOT downgrade the hardware--which is what Homepod has going for it.

  • Apple should have learned here the same lesson as they did with the original Apple TV. The cost of entry has to be low enough to get more of these devices into people's hands. The HomePod esentially is an expensive stereo system. If you are on the market for a Bose or Sonos, this is for you.
    • If you are on the market for a Bose or Sonos, this is for you.

      Not even close. SONOS will play just about any source on Earth, not just iTunes. You can use any device out there to control it - not just an iOS device (OSX, Windows, iOS and Android). And a pair of Play:1 speakers ($298) will spank a HomePod - and provide REAL stereo as opposed to simulated - or synch'd audio in two different rooms. If you are in the market for a Bose or SONOS system - the HomePod isn't even in the same league from an audio quality standpoint.

  • "Sorry, I could not find any information about tether flabbergast"

    That's why these speakers aren't selling.
  • Flawed Targeting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThomasBHardy ( 827616 ) on Saturday April 14, 2018 @09:58AM (#56436385)

    This product is fatally flawed. While it may have good sound, that alone will not carry it over the finish line.

    It lacks native spotify/pandora/amazon music support. If you want the entire speaker market to buy the most expensive speaker on the market, you need to have a total potential audience as large as you can get. Currently the target audience is only Applephiles due to the walled garden.

    It's too expensive. If you want to capture the largest segment of Applephiles and get them onto the music subscription service, then the speaker needs to be much less expensive, subsidized by the ongoing subscription costs. If your total audience is only a fraction of the market, then you need to be able to sell into as much of that smaller audience as possible.

    It lacks a solid "smart" for the speaker. In a time where everyone either has, or is starting to get curious/envious of smart devices, offering the most expensive yet least smart speaker available misses the mark.

    While perhaps being the best sounding speaker on the SmartSpeaker shelf, it improperly targeted and could have been easily saved by even a basic review of the product's capabilities versus the available markets.

  • It does not have airplay 2 (yet?). So it is not the product it was supposed to be in many important ways,. It is a while after release... airplay 2 must be hard to engineer.
  • I’m a iOS and Mac (for day to day, windows is for games) guy and I’ll tell you Siri fucking sucks. She is too focused on keywords and not context. I gave up on her when I’d ask for directions and she’d google shit. Oh, and the directions suck. I hit a clover leaf on the interstate and she had me drive over three leafs of it to hit the next highway.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is designed for rooms, but they demo it in Apple Stores. They should make an enclosed booth that allows people to hear the difference between it and an Echo. Also, the Apple Store employee had it play House music, which does nothing for it. They don't have their best audiophiles selling it, because they can't demonstrate it right now.

  • Isn't claiming 10% of the market with overpriced high margin device Apple's entire business model? Are they giving up on that?

  • I'm surprised this gossip qualifies as news. Bloomberg and Ming are not accurate analysts when it comes to Apple.
  • Too expensive, and it can't be used as a Bluetooth speaker. I was interested in it to get easier access to Siri and because it was reported to have excellent sound quality, but it cost more than I was willing to pay, and I wouldn't have been able to use it for things like playing music from my computer.

  • ... if it had classic bluetooth as well.
    I would be in the market to replace my big floorstanding speakers with something small and decent sounding. But next to Airplay I would want to connect my stereo to it. There are line output > bluetooth adapters, so i heard. Unfortunately there is no simple airplay sending device (airport express is only a receiver) to get the streaming going.
  • Big Brother Enterprise at the moment listens and gathers WAY to much data from those smart speakers.

    - Some record and transmit everything they hear to their respective mothership.
    - Most are granted access to various social media and enterprise accounts.

    The combination of access to all communications and data and passing of the data to the Enterprise mothership is a disaster in the making. This makes Enterprise a significant threat to our privacy and safety.

    The other end of the issue is the immaturity of th

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