TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

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TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

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HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

This article was just published by TidBITS and sent to you at your request.

HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

By Josh Centers
http://tidbits.com/article/17750

Apple’s much-anticipated HomePod smart speaker will arrive on 9 February 2018, and you can preorder it starting this Friday, 26 January 2018, in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, probably at Apple’s usual extremely unfriendly time of midnight Pacific. Apple says the HomePod will arrive in France and Germany this spring, but made no mention of Canada or other countries. It will cost $349 in white or space gray.


If you’re expecting the HomePod to blow away the smarts of the Amazon Echo or Google Home, prepare to be disappointed. From what we know about the HomePod, it will not be able to access third-party services without tapping into a connected iPhone or iPad via SiriKit, unlike the Echo, which lets you install new “skills” on the device itself. And while the Echo currently offers multi-room audio, the HomePod won’t be able to link speakers together for stereo sound and multi-room audio until later this year. Similarly, AirPlay 2, promised in June 2017 at WWDC, is still described as “coming later this year.”

So what’s the sales pitch for the HomePod? Apple is focusing on sound quality, touting its seven-tweeter array and high-excursion woofer. (Excursion is defined as how far the cone of a speaker travels from its resting position.) The HomePod also features six microphones and an A8 chip to decipher your voice.


Apple also touts the HomePod’s integration with Apple services like Apple Music and HomeKit, with which it will be able to interact with directly. Also, the HomePod can serve as a HomeKit hub, much like the Apple TV and iPad.

9to5Mac reports that the HomePod will not require an Apple Music subscription, but it seems as though you’ll want one to take full advantage of the HomePod. If you choose to abstain, you can still listen to purchased iTunes music, podcasts, and stream the Beats 1 radio station. But it appears that the HomePod does not support Home Sharing, and thus can only play music that you purchased through the iTunes Store.

In essence, the HomePod will be able to do most of what Siri on your iPhone can do. But some important questions remain: what happens if there isn’t a connected iOS device in the house? How does the HomePod handle multiple users who have different information in iCloud?

One thing we officially know more about is what the tiny display on the top can do. Don’t expect to watch movies on your HomePod — it’s purely for Siri feedback and manual interaction. Apple has published a guide to the HomePod’s touch controls.


Perhaps Apple would rather you think of the HomePod as less of its answer to Amazon Echo and more of an AirPod for your home. If so, that’s going to be a tough sell with Apple’s current messaging. It also feels strange to try to sell a mono speaker primarily on sound quality. Apple fans and audiophiles are two tough crowds, and the subset of people who fall into both groups even more so.

Siri was well ahead of the competition when Apple re-launched it in 2011, but now it’s falling behind, as you could see at this year’s CES, in which Alexa was crammed into every device imaginable and probably some that would tax the imagination (see “HomeKit Hardware to Expect in 2018,” 19 January 2018).

Throughout the Apple community, excitement for the HomePod seems muted. As developer Marco Arment said, “Nothing about the HomePod release shows Apple’s confidence in it, which makes it hard for any of us to get excited about it.”

Even Daring Fireball’s John Gruber seems skeptical:

How does this handle multiple people in the same home? That seems like a big question to remain unanswered before folks start plunking down $349. This feels like if Apple had started selling the iPod back in 2001 without ever having explained how the click wheel worked or how you synced music to it from iTunes, and instead just said “Trust us, it’s great.”

Ouch. That’s not to say the HomePod won’t be terrific, but Apple’s messaging so far has been underwhelming, and the launch seems unusually haphazard. It’s never a good sign when something misses its initial ship date, and finally appears 9 months after it was announced, but with several high-profile features still to come!

Although at least one of us will be getting a HomePod quickly for testing purposes, we recommend holding off on pre-ordering until you can read early reviews and listen to an actual unit.

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Article copyright © 2018 By Josh Centers . Reuse governed by Creative Commons License.




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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

Marilyn Matty

On Jan 23, 2018, at 2:36 PM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:

HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

This article was just published by TidBITS and sent to you at your request.

HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

By Josh Centers
http://tidbits.com/article/17750


If you’re expecting the HomePod to blow away the smarts of the Amazon Echo or Google Home, prepare to be disappointed. From what we know about the HomePod, it will not be able to access third-party services without tapping into a connected iPhone or iPad via SiriKit, unlike the Echo, which lets you install new “skills” on the device itself.

I know that the people I know are not a representative sample, but those that do have an Echo or Home use it about 80-90% of the time to play music. The rest is to  ask a question, set the timer or a reminder, or in the case of  Home, to text. They might have downloaded skills, but like when I first got my iPhone and downloaded a ton of apps, they barely use the majority of them. 

So what’s the sales pitch for the HomePod? Apple is focusing on sound quality, touting its seven-tweeter array and high-excursion woofer. (Excursion is defined as how far the cone of a speaker travels from its resting position.) The HomePod also features six microphones and an A8 chip to decipher your voice.

Music is pervasive, and it was so even before Apple revolutionized the music business. HomePod is revolutionary in how it delivers music. More than a few years ago we gained some living space when we traded in our ginormous 1970s speakers for little tiny ones that sounded even better. Having one teeny, less obtrusive speaker that sounds even better is a selling point.

Apple also touts the HomePod’s integration with Apple services like Apple Music and HomeKit, with which it will be able to interact with directly. Also, the HomePod can serve as a HomeKit hub, much like the Apple TV and iPad.

Privacy and security are big selling points for Apple too. Though I can't wait till a cashless, checkoutless Whole Foods opens near me, I am not happy that every move I make and every step I take will be tracked and added to the copious amount of information Amazon already knows about me.

9to5Mac reports that the HomePod will not require an Apple Music subscription, but it seems as though you’ll want one to take full advantage of the HomePod. If you choose to abstain, you can still listen to purchased iTunes music, podcasts, and stream the Beats 1 radio station. But it appears that the HomePod does not support Home Sharing, and thus can only play music that you purchased through the iTunes Store.

Apple's services business is hugely profitable and Beats and iTunes play a big part in this. Apple's not even announced yet streaming video service is causing a massive earthquake in the entertainment industry. I just read this the other day:

How HBO's 'Big Little Lies' Stars Leveraged Apple for Big Paydays

In essence, the HomePod will be able to do most of what Siri on your iPhone can do. But some important questions remain: what happens if there isn’t a connected iOS device in the house?

Like with Watch, I think a disconnect is down the road. 

How does the HomePod handle multiple users who have different information in iCloud?

I'll bet they're hard at work developing voice recognition.

Perhaps Apple would rather you think of the HomePod as less of its answer to Amazon Echo and more of an AirPod for your home. If so, that’s going to be a tough sell with Apple’s current messaging. It also feels strange to try to sell a mono speaker primarily on sound quality. Apple fans and audiophiles are two tough crowds, and the subset of people who fall into both groups even more so.

So now we have eensy beensy speakers and a big TV screen in our home; it originally was the other way around. We're thinking about upgrading to an even bigger TV screen, and maybe eventually, to a HomePod if down the road it turns out to be as good as Apple says it is.

Siri was well ahead of the competition when Apple re-launched it in 2011, but now it’s falling behind, as you could see at this year’s CES, in which Alexa was crammed into every device imaginable and probably some that would tax the imagination (see “HomeKit Hardware to Expect in 2018,” 19 January 2018).

Google and Amazon want to be everywhere on anything you use - where you live, where you shop, where you go. They want to know as much as they can about everyone so they can sell you stuff and serve relevant, precisely targeted ads to everybody. So they want to find out anything they possibly can about anybody.

Apple wants you to buy their premium priced hardware and services. Privacy and security are important selling points for them. I doubt if they are interested in loosing money on a $30 speaker to monitor your interest in beards of toilet paper.

Throughout the Apple community, excitement for the HomePod seems muted. As developer Marco Arment said, “Nothing about the HomePod release shows Apple’s confidence in it, which makes it hard for any of us to get excited about it.”

Apple is not about being everything to everybody. They are, at least currently, not interested in monitoring what's in your refrigerator to make it easier to order food, or offer suggestions about what to cook for dinner. 

And Apple was not the horse out of the gate with desktop computers, portable music players, mobile phones, internet enabled watches, etc. I think that, at least initially, Apple is focusing on entertainment, health and fitness

Even Daring Fireball’s John Gruber seems skeptical:

How does this handle multiple people in the same home? That seems like a big question to remain unanswered before folks start plunking down $349. This feels like if Apple had started selling the iPod back in 2001 without ever having explained how the click wheel worked or how you synced music to it from iTunes, and instead just said “Trust us, it’s great.”

My guess is that Apple is not interested, at least in the short term, in marketing HomePod as a general interest product like Alexa or Cortana. They're probably focusing on people who already own one or more Apple devices.

Ouch. That’s not to say the HomePod won’t be terrific, but Apple’s messaging so far has been underwhelming, and the launch seems unusually haphazard. It’s never a good sign when something misses its initial ship date, and finally appears 9 months after it was announced, but with several high-profile features still to come!

It's not good, but it's probably not a fatal or devistating blow. And Apple Stores will be a great showcase for Homepod. 

Although at least one of us will be getting a HomePod quickly for testing purposes, we recommend holding off on pre-ordering until you can read early reviews and listen to an actual unit.


I'm looking forward to hearing the opinions of TidBITS and TidBITS Talkers about their experiences with HomePod.

Marilyn



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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

Marc Zeedar-2
In reply to this post by TidBITS Articles

> On Jan 23, 2018, at 11:36 AM, TidBITS Articles <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> you can preorder it starting this Friday, 26 January 2018, in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, probably at Apple’s usual extremely unfriendly time of midnight Pacific.

A blogger I read posted an update that sales start at 9 a.m. Eastern, but I'm not sure where he got that info and I can't seem to find the post.


>> On Jan 24, 2018, at 12:38 PM, Marilyn Matty <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>>
>
>> Ouch. That’s not to say the HomePod won’t be terrific, but Apple’s messaging so far has been underwhelming, and the launch seems unusually haphazard.
>
> It's not good, but it's probably not a fatal or devistating blow. And Apple Stores will be a great showcase for Homepod.

I am curious how Apple will showcase it at their Stores, which tend to be very crowded and noisy.

For me personally, I wouldn't have an Echo or Google device in my home if you gave it to me. (As a longtime Amazon customer, I'm less worried about them on the privacy front, but I don't trust Google at all.) I am genuinely shocked that these are selling at all. I don't see *anything* compelling about them.

I am very interested in a HomePod, but more for its audio qualities than Siri (I already have Siri on my phone). Originally it was a no-brainer as I didn't have an audio system in my home (my old A/V receiver died and I didn't replace it), but at Christmas Amazon gave me a great deal on a new receiver and now I have surround sound for my TV. But that's in the media room, so the HomePod would be useful in the main part of the house.

I do have some HomeKit stuff, so I'll see how that works. I haven't listened to much music in decades (I listen to audiobooks), but I am thinking I might do so with a HomePod (I'll have to get an Apple Music subscription).

I'll pre-order one and if I don't like it, I'll return it.


Marc Zeedar
Publisher, xDev Magazine and xDevLibrary
www.xdevmag.com | www.xdevlibrary.com







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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

adamengst
Administrator
> you can preorder it starting this Friday, 26 January 2018, in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, probably at Apple’s usual extremely unfriendly time of midnight Pacific.

A blogger I read posted an update that sales start at 9 a.m. Eastern, but I'm not sure where he got that info and I can't seem to find the post.

That would be great — if I have to blow out a night of sleep again… Umm, well, I’ll write a snarky article about it. :-)

cheers... -Adam



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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

Rodney
In reply to this post by Marc Zeedar-2

> On Jan 24, 2018, at 23:15, Zeedar Marc <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> I am curious how Apple will showcase it at their Stores, which tend to be very crowded and noisy.

That’s something I wonder about as well. If the HomePod is all about the music, it needs a good place in which to be demonstrated.

> For me personally, I wouldn't have an Echo or Google device in my home if you gave it to me.

Same here…

> I haven't listened to much music in decades (I listen to audiobooks), but I am thinking I might do so with a HomePod (I'll have to get an Apple Music subscription).

I also listen to audiobooks, but I also listen to a lot of music, and I have for most of my life. However, I want to own my music and not rent it. These days I don’t discover new music very often, so it is cheaper to just buy it when I find it. I have absolutely zero interest in any subscription service. I’m hoping that I can use AirPlay to play the music in my iTunes library without needing an Apple Music subscription (I do have iTunes Match). I just installed the latest iTunes update, and the release notes are a bit ambiguous about that, “Use the improved AirPlay menu to easily choose HomePod and control what plays next with your Apple Music subscription.”




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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

@lbutlr
In reply to this post by Marc Zeedar-2
On 24 Jan 2018, at 15:15, Zeedar Marc <[hidden email]> wrote:
> For me personally, I wouldn't have an Echo or Google device in my home if you gave it to me. (As a longtime Amazon customer, I'm less worried about them on the privacy front, but I don't trust Google at all.) I am genuinely shocked that these are selling at all. I don't see *anything* compelling about them.

I have an Echo (well, two) in the house and I've fought with them since they came out to do a decent job controlling my lights and thermostats, but it's been a constant fight which I have steadily lost.

Most recently I tried to setup a task for the Echo to dim two lights in the living room, a newish ability heavily promoted by Amazon. I setup the task to change each light to 10% and the Echo consistently set the first to 10% and the other to 100%. If I rebuilt the event with the lights in a different order, it sets the first to 10% and the second to 100%.

I've slowly eliminated the non-homekit devices as I find that while Siri and HomeKit have their own quirks, they consistently work better. I am down to two Wink lights (which I've removed from the living room and have setup on a simple timer that dims them automatically between midnight and sunrise) and two Nest thermostats. Those wink lights are now in a group named "China cabinet" and I still am unable to get the Echo to treat them as a unit. If I tell the echo to "Turn off china cabinet" it tells me it can't find china.

All the WeMo stuff is in a box while I consider if I want to spend $40 to link them to home kit. I'm still mad at WeMo, when one of their wall switches decided to lose its settings it defaulted to being on, making it impossible to turn off the bedroom light. I fought with it for DAYS trying to get it reset before taking it and all the other WeMo stuff out and replacing it with Leviton in-wall switches (no hub required) and hue bulbs in place of WeMo wall plugs.

The only thing I use the Echo for now is timers, but my wife will still uses it to play music on occasions because it is easier than getting her phone to connect to the two Sonos speakers.

The only reason that I use the Echo for timers though is for those few times I need multiple timers. Most times I just use my watch.

--
The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.




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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

Marilyn Matty
In reply to this post by Marc Zeedar-2

On Jan 24, 2018, at 5:15 PM, Zeedar Marc <[hidden email]> wrote:

On Jan 24, 2018, at 12:38 PM, Marilyn Matty <[hidden email]> wrote:


It's not good, but it's probably not a fatal or devistating blow. And Apple Stores will be a great showcase for Homepod.

I am curious how Apple will showcase it at their Stores, which tend to be very crowded and noisy.

I forgot that we are not supposed to call Apple's physical retail environments Apple Stores anymore. All the retail environments formerly known as Apple Stores are being totally redesigned to be more like "community centers" that encompass different environments, and will no longer focus primarily on sales.

"But while the terminology landed poorly for some, Ahrendts and Apple may need to lean on the grandiose if they are to turn a sales floor into a place you want to hang out at in a bleak retail landscape. This year, Toys ‘R’ Us, RadioShack, and a dozen others filed for bankruptcy and closed a number of locations, as more and more consumers turn to online storefronts to shop. As a result, retailers are embracing the “experience” model: Nordstrom is testing a concept store that won’t have any clothing in stock, but rather fashion stylists on hand to dole out advice, along with cold-pressed juice and coffee available for purchase."

This is a quote from an excellent article here:


I hope this will be like the original Apple Store model, which I thought was a totally wacko idea when Steve Jobs announced them. At the time there was a Gateway Store just about every few blocks and in almost every mall in the NY metro area, sometimes right near Comp USA, Computer Warehouse and a multitude of other big computer retailers that buried any Macs they tried to sell at the back of  crappy, disorganized  store. 

The original Soho and 5th Ave Apple Stores were not just retail environments with a helpful and knowledgeable staff. They offered classes not just in how to use your Mac and Apple Software, they offered classes in Photoshop, etc. I took beginner and intermediate classes in FileMaker Pro. Some big name media and ad people taught classes. So did artists and musicians, including Moby. 

Marilyn



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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

@lbutlr
On 24 Jan 2018, at 17:53, Marilyn Matty <[hidden email]> wrote:
> The original Soho and 5th Ave Apple Stores were not just retail environments with a helpful and knowledgeable staff. They offered classes not just in how to use your Mac and Apple Software, they offered classes in Photoshop, etc. I took beginner and intermediate classes in FileMaker Pro. Some big name media and ad people taught classes. So did artists and musicians, including Moby.

Apple Stores (whatever they are supposed to be called) still offer classes, and most time I go in to a store there is a class on something or other going on. I don't think they call them classes any more, and most appear to be a bit more open and less "heres how to use iMovie."

For example, today at the local store there are multiple "Studio Lab" which sounds like an hour and a half for you to go in and use their wifi and work on a project and have people available to answer questions. Later, there's a "Quick Start" season on music.

But there are also some basic classes, like a class on iCloud and Apple ID, another on Mac Basics, and several more throughout the day.

--
'There's a kind of magic in masks. Masks conceal one face, but reveal
another. The one that only comes out in darkness. I bet you could do
just what you liked, behind a mask...?' --Maskerade




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Re: TidBITS: HomePod Arrives February 9th, Multi-Room Audio to Follow Later in 2018

Marilyn Matty
It seems that marketers could become more interested in Bixby:

WHY SAMSUNG, NOT GOOGLE, SHOULD BE THE CES HERO

I've read elsewhere that, understandably, Bixby enabled home electronics and phone usage are a huge success in Korea and some other Asian countries. But I've also read that here in the US people Samsung phone owners just hate having it on their phones as it's too often triggered accidentally.

Marilyn



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