By the time the Apple HomePod made its official debut earlier in 2018, the Amazon Echo had already spent over three years with homeowners. As such, it’s hard to blame folks for comparing the two smart speakers, and yes, perhaps suggesting that the HomePod took a few cues from its older competitor. But unsurprisingly, Apple CEO Tim Cook is none too pleased with the insinuation. In a recent interview with Fast Company, the executive dismissed claims that the HomePod is in any way a “me too” product.
“I wouldn’t say ‘follow,’” Cook told Fast Company of the comparisons between the HomePod and the Echo. “I wouldn’t use that word because that implies we waited for somebody to see what they were doing. That’s actually not what’s happening. What’s happening if you look under the sheets, which we probably don’t let people do, is that we start projects years before they come out. You could take every one of our products –iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch — they weren’t the first, but they were the first modern one, right?”
It’s certainly true that while Apple isn’t always the first to market, it tends to offer the product that becomes the market standard. And while the HomePod made its appearance significantly later than the Echo, plans for the smart speaker first began swirling around Apple around six years ago. As FastCo notes, “one report suggested that the speaker started life as an internal project…[and] moved through several designs, one of which was three feet tall.”
Whether or not Apple or Amazon had the concept first, the initial reaction to the Apple smart speaker has been a bit chilly, to say the least. Siri is much less capable of controlling your smart home than Alexa, and while the speaker itself has been praised as top-notch, its abilities beyond playing music are rather questionable. But Cook seems perfectly fine with that, at least for the time being.
“Great artists spend enormous time thinking about every detail,” he said of the company’s focus on sound over just about everything else. “If you get this little squeaky speaker, all of that is gone! All of the art and craft of music is gone. [HomePod] is the realization that that is important. Part of the enjoyment in music is hearing the full sound.”