There's reportedly a worry within Apple that delaying the HomePod smart speaker is a 'huge missed opportunity'

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images
  • Apple’s smart speaker was supposed to come out in December but it’s been delayed until early 2018.
  • One reason for the delay may be a lack of institutional attention to the device, which is said to be organised in the “accessories” division of the company.
  • Even when it does come out, its voice features and integration will be behind Amazon and Google.

Last week, Apple’s HomePod smart speaker was delayed until early next year, missing the critical holiday season. At least one person who worked on it believes the delay is “a huge missed opportunity” for Apple, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

In fact, the delay was only the latest setback in a development process where the product was cancelled and revived several times, according to the report.

That might be because of how it started. HomePod started as a side project by Mac audio engineers aiming to build a speaker that sounds better, and according to Bloomberg, the $US349 speaker was organised in Apple’s accessories division and based in a satellite office across the street from Apple’s headquarters.

A prototype of Apple’s HomePod. Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Lots of competition

It’s no secret that Apple’s speaker faces a lot of competition.

Amazon released new versions of the Echo, its smart speaker, with better audio quality earlier this year, which will ameliorate one of Apple’s selling points for the HomePod.

Google is also releasing a high-quality connected speaker, the Google Home Max, which will have audio “beam forming,” a new feature that is at the core of Apple’s speaker, and which promises better sound quality.

Now Apple faces a holiday season where its new audio product is not on sale, and potential customers will be able to choose from similar products from its top competitors.

And Apple is treating the HomePod like an accessory or an extension of the iPhone, as compared to the Echo, which is a standalone device.

Even when it goes on sale, the HomePod won’t be able to match the features of other smart speakers. Apple is limiting third-party integration with Siri, the HomePod voice interface, so users won’t be able to play music from Spotify with their voice or hail an Uber. And the apps that will work with HomePod and Siri will be a limited number of tweaked iPhone apps that do processing on the iPhone, not the speaker.

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