Tim Cook says hardware, software integration puts HomePod ahead of competition

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  • Reply 61 of 121
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,752member
    gatorguy said:
    The Google Home Max has twin woofers, but I still would not describe it as offering stereo sound nor would Google. 
    Google describes using a pair of the Max speakers as providing "stereo separation", so the drawback to having a single Max would not be that it isn't technically stereo but rather that the stereo doesn't have much separation. That's the issue Apple is tackling by having the audio beam forming capability: greater separation from a compact source. I think they considered that to be more important than technically fulfilling "stereo" at the low end by having more than one woofer. 
    I don't recall reading a claim of stereo from Google themselves anywhere, but absolutely possible it was mentioned somewhere once. I don't see it in their product description but perhaps I've missed it. 
  • Reply 62 of 121
    "(But) if you are both trying to license something and compete with your licensees, this is a difficult model and it remains to be seen if it can be successful or not." Hello, Microsoft. 😁
  • Reply 63 of 121

    "(But) if you are both trying to license something and compete with your licensees, this is a difficult model and it remains to be seen if it can be successful or not."

    Hello, Microsoft.

    edited January 2018
  • Reply 64 of 121
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 444member

    Interesting reading.  A lot of misunderstanding and misplaced assumptions about this product even among AI readers.  A lot of this is driven by the fact that Apple is still holding some of the HomePod’s key capabilities close to the vest.

    My own perhaps flawed assumption is that the HomePod is designed to be a fully capable 7.1 surround sound system in a single device (7 tweeters and a subwoofer can’t be a coincidence).  If it is able to project different channels to different parts of a room then there is no need for a second HomePod, despite misplaced yearnings for one to deliver ‘stereo’ throughout a room.

    This 7.1 capability may not be ready for prime time yet.  But a firmware update might bring on a revolution in speaker design that will emit shock waves (pun intended) industry wide.

  • Reply 65 of 121
    By the same logic, Siri won't interact well with third party lights, thermostats or vacuum cleaners. You don't need to own the hardware to offer a good experience. Besides, look at the most common home gadgets - thermostats, security cams, smoke detectors, streaming audio and video. Google owns each of those. Lights are also popular but I've never had a problem controlling them with Assistant on Google Home or a third party phone.
    It's a question of what's controlling what. Apple is not going to let a third party manufacturer make a Siri device any more than it's going to let a third party manufacturer make a phone or notebook that acts as an interface between the user and MacOS or iOS. You can, however, use Macs, iPhones, and now HomePods to control third-party devices, with Apple's quality standards very much apparent in the process.

    For instance, Belkin's Wemo line of light switches finally got a HomeKit bridge a couple of weeks ago. Apple Home and Siri have proven to be quite superior at controlling Wemo switches than was/is Belkin's own app. Setting aside the extra time to physically tap and pull up the Wemo app, there was often a noticeable delay between tapping the app and the switch reacting. Using HomeKit control and Siri has made that whole process almost instantaneous. In fact, the switch is usually triggered by the time Siri can say "done." So I'm not sure what logic you're using, but Siri does interact well with third party apps through HomeKit. 

    On the other hand, if Belkin or any other manufacturer were permitted to make 'Siri Dots' or some such thing, quality and user experience would almost certainly drop as compared to the HomePod. If you've paid any attention to Apple's longstanding and seemingly successful business model, it would seem pretty obvious that this is how they would approach this sort of thing.

    That's also why they've created a HomeKit standard. If you're across town or in another country and want to adjust your thermostat back home, Apple controls the secure conveyance of your commands all the way from your iPhone to the WiFi handoff inside your home to the thermostat. (Yes, Verizon or whoever carries the signal, but it's encrypted from your iPhone to the AppleTV or iPad HomeKit hub inside your home.) This is consistent with how they've always done things.
  • Reply 66 of 121
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    JWSC said:

    My own perhaps flawed assumption is that the HomePod is designed to be a fully capable 7.1 surround sound system in a single device (7 tweeters and a subwoofer can’t be a coincidence).  If it is able to project different channels to different parts of a room then there is no need for a second HomePod, despite misplaced yearnings for one to deliver ‘stereo’ throughout a room.

    How would the psychics of that work? How good can a 1 inch* tweeter as an entire channel sound?

    * Gauging by the subwoofer being 4", but I haven't seen a conformation of the tweeter size.
  • Reply 67 of 121
    I will buy one...

    I wonder if it will sound as good/better than my iPod HiFi ;?
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 68 of 121
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,975member
    I wonder if it will sound as good/better than my iPod HiFi ;?
    🤣
  • Reply 69 of 121
    zoetmb said:
    We won't know if it's really optimized for music until we hear it - marketing hype means nothing.
    Bingo. Lots of people told me the Pill+ sounds great. That was a learning experience for me, as I realized that "sounds great" is a euphemism for "sounds less crappy than other popular products."

    The HomePod may actually sound great, we just don't yet know. Since past experience tells us that many people use the words "sounds great" to mean "sounds less crappy," it's prudent to keep a grip on the wallet until one is able to make an assessment based on their own standards.

    zoetmb said:
    And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.
    I'm actually okay with that part of the equation. Most music listening these days is done passively, and a stereo field is neither critical to enjoyment of a song nor particularly practical if the listener is moving around.

    One of my mantras about producing content is that a technically flawed recording of an emotional performance beats a technically perfect recording of a dull and passionless performance every time. Kind of an extension of the old line "No one walks away humming a microphone." Both are ways of saying it's all about the song, not the technology. That means technical perfection isn't as important to enjoyment of the product as other factors, and is probably why devices that are convenient and affordable sell just fine despite being sonically questionable.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 70 of 121
    1983 said:
    I fear HomePod will be DOA. Apple lost the virtual assistant battle a long time ago. And there are plenty of other smart-speaker manufactures that do great sound quality too.
    Apple does not have a history of entering a market with simple "me too" products, and HomePod isn't likely to be one, either. Amazon and Google are selling cheap 'dots,' probably at a loss, just to get the things into your home, because the devices themselves aren't intended to generate profit. Alexa and Google assistants are designed to collect data on the user and sell it to others, making the user the product and revenue source for their business models. Siri works the other way around, making its services a reason to buy Apple hardware, which sells at a premium, because of higher quality and the fact that they're never pursuing the low margin cheapest price-point market.

    Some people will buy the HomePod for the superior sound quality, its integration into the Apple environment, and the greater level of data security built into HomeKit. The others will do just fine, until there's news of a significant hacking incident with the less secure products.
  • Reply 71 of 121
    zoetmb said:
    I think a lot of people buy Alexa or similar devices thinking they’ll use them for a lot of different purposes, but end up using them mostly for music, with the occasional weather forecast, etc. But the Apple device seems to be the first one optimized for music, its actual “core” purpose. So it could be a good upgrade for people who got used to the convenience of Alexa, etc. but want something that sounds (and looks) better. 
    We won't know if it's really optimized for music until we hear it - marketing hype means nothing.   And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.


    As I understand it, one HomePod does stereo just fine. Two will just give even greater separation. 
    You understand incorrectly, despite whatever Apple's marketing may claim! :)

    Fortunately it doesn't matter, since stereo separation isn't really essential (or even particularly desirable) in many common use cases.
  • Reply 72 of 121

    beowulfschmidt said:
    [...] Most music listeners don't care about HiFi sound quality, only that it's "good enough," so the additional quality of the Apple entry isn't a value add for them. 
    Probably true, but *I* might be swayed if it sounds nice.

    We've got our horrid little Pill+ in the kitchen for listening to music while we're in there. The primary reason for considering a HomePod instead would be the ability to do away with having a "feeder" device to deal with. That is, being able to use Siri to bark instructions directly to the speaker instead of having to use a phone, computer, or iPad. Since I could do that with just about any smart speaker, the differentiating factor may well be sound quality. We'll see.
  • Reply 73 of 121
    zoetmb said:
    And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.
    Common misunderstanding with the HomePod. It's not a mono device. The high/mid range will be reproduced in stereo due to the seven tweeters, while the low end will not (only one woofer). That's not a big deal for a mass market product like the HomePod. Most stereo effects do reside in the high/mid range, so although there is technically a difference with only one woofer, the non-audiophile is going to be hard pressed to find much of a difference with "true" stereo.
    The "point one" in high-end 5.1 and 7.1 audiophile systems represents a single subwoofer. Older "2.0" stereo systems included big woofers in each of the two speakers, but practically, speaking, that's not really necessary in most home applications. A listener can perceive mids and highs that are directionally separated, but there's not much need  at low frequencies. Wavelengths at low frequencies are measured in feet, so there's not much point to separating those frequencies into "true stereo" inside a room inside an average home. So the HomePod doesn't really need more than one subwoofer. And because the multidirectional tweeters are going to benefit from computational analysis of the room, I suspect that HomePod is going to impress more than just the non-audiophile mass-market consumer.
    foregoneconclusion
  • Reply 74 of 121
    zoetmb said:
    And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.
    Common misunderstanding with the HomePod. It's not a mono device. The high/mid range will be reproduced in stereo due to the seven tweeters, while the low end will not (only one woofer). That's not a big deal for a mass market product like the HomePod. Most stereo effects do reside in the high/mid range, so although there is technically a difference with only one woofer, the non-audiophile is going to be hard pressed to find much of a difference with "true" stereo.
    That's what Apple is doing, but the reality is that it doesn't actually work very well.

    For stereo to sound even remotely natural to human ears there needs to be physical distance between the sources. This can be simulated with phase effects, but they don't sound particularly natural. It also gets a little weird as the listener moves around. That's fine on a laptop where the listener tends to stay pretty much dead centre, but may be an issue for a home speaker since the listener probably isn't going to stay in one spot.

    Still, while those things may be bothersome to people for whom listening is a more serious experience, they probably won't be a problem for most people. A tiny little speaker isn't going to sound like real life anyway. The novelty of the effect may actually be perceived as a positive.
  • Reply 75 of 121
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 444member
    Soli said:
    How would the psychics of that work? How good can a 1 inch* tweeter as an entire channel sound?

    Acoustic beaming, as Apple calls it, gets into some pretty hairy physics.

    For beam forming to work you need to create two or more almost opposite sound waves that rely on constructive and destructive wave interference.  Constructive interference will permit the sound waves to travel.  Destructive interference will act to cancel out the sound wave in the direction it is not desired, a la noise canceling headphones.  That’s actually the easy part.  The hard part is capturing the acoustic properties of a room, figuring out where you want to project each channel, deciding which speakers to use for constructive and destructive waves (and by the way one speaker can project more than one sound wave, so how do you parcel that out in software), and then directing the constructive and destructive wave beams accordingly.

    It’s so ambitious that I don’t know if Apple can pull it off.  But I believe this is what Apple’s acoustic engineers would like to do.

    tmay
  • Reply 76 of 121

    macxpress said:
    [...] Absolute BS on iOS and macOS interface design. Maybe you don't like it, but that doesn't mean customers as a whole don't like it. People don't buy expensive things for the sake of buying them. Customer satisfaction is still right up there with everything it sells. Need I say more?
    I think if you ask users who've had an iPhone since before iOS7 whether they prefer the current UI or older versions, you'll be able to quantify a perception of declining happiness. People remain committed for reasons other than easily identified controls, and may be satisfied DESPITE the changes to the UI because the flow of improvements outweigh objections to the UI.

    The facts that people continue to buy Apple products and report overall satisfaction do not necessarily mean that the present UI is desirable.
  • Reply 77 of 121
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,818member
    zoetmb said:
    And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.
    Common misunderstanding with the HomePod. It's not a mono device. The high/mid range will be reproduced in stereo due to the seven tweeters, while the low end will not (only one woofer). That's not a big deal for a mass market product like the HomePod. Most stereo effects do reside in the high/mid range, so although there is technically a difference with only one woofer, the non-audiophile is going to be hard pressed to find much of a difference with "true" stereo.
    I don't pretend to be an audiophile, but "stereo" is really a misnomer when you are talking about the source recording. Sure, some recordings are made with a mere two microphones with separation, but the essence is that its just a mixdown to two channels output. Essentially, the best that any system can do is provide a plausible recreation of the original mixdown and environment. 

    So what if a Logic Pro user, as an example, could tailor a multichannel mixdown to a HomePod;, or better, HomePod's; what would that provide that is missing from the over processed two channel stereo of most digital tracks. What would it be like to have tracks created for HomePod's, that can be recreated in a completely different environment?
  • Reply 78 of 121
    zoetmb said:
    And with all these devices, I don't know how we perceive going back over 60 years to mono sound systems is perceived as "optimized for music" unless one wants to argue that the largely crappy new music released today, largely created within ProTools, doesn't need stereo.
    Common misunderstanding with the HomePod. It's not a mono device. The high/mid range will be reproduced in stereo due to the seven tweeters, while the low end will not (only one woofer). That's not a big deal for a mass market product like the HomePod. Most stereo effects do reside in the high/mid range, so although there is technically a difference with only one woofer, the non-audiophile is going to be hard pressed to find much of a difference with "true" stereo.
    That's what Apple is doing, but the reality is that it doesn't actually work very well.

    For stereo to sound even remotely natural to human ears there needs to be physical distance between the sources. This can be simulated with phase effects, but they don't sound particularly natural. It also gets a little weird as the listener moves around. That's fine on a laptop where the listener tends to stay pretty much dead centre, but may be an issue for a home speaker since the listener probably isn't going to stay in one spot.

    Still, while those things may be bothersome to people for whom listening is a more serious experience, they probably won't be a problem for most people. A tiny little speaker isn't going to sound like real life anyway. The novelty of the effect may actually be perceived as a positive.
    With the possible exception of binaural recordings played through headphones directly into the listener's ears, stereo is itself an artificial, simulated construct. When you hear actual sounds in your environment, they are not generally emanating from two points in front of you, a few feet apart. So even with a great recording playing through two high-end speakers set a number of feet apart, you are still creating a simulated sound field. I suppose if you're playing a recording that was made of two close-miked instruments and playback is completely separated to the two channels, you could reasonably reproduce the effect of each of those performers standing in the room exactly where the speakers are. Otherwise, stereo is itself a simulation, attempting to emulate a left-to-right soundstage with different things "placed" across it. From a physics and audio engineering standpoint, there's plenty of hinkiness involved in that process. Likewise in multi-channel surround sound setups, which simulate sound fields all around you. Dolby Atmos apparently opens up vertical simulation as well.

    So all that's to say, the proof will be in the computational pudding, but the HomePod's seven tweeter array is no more of an artificial construct than is two big JBLs in each corner of your den. There are no doubt limitations to create stereo separation from the HomePod's arrangement, but I'm curious to hear how well they do with it.
    tmayJWSCStrangeDays
  • Reply 79 of 121
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    foggyhill said:
    "Ahead of the competition"

    Well, he would say that wouldn't he?

    Never mind Tim, I won't be buying one or any other ''Home assistant' for that matter.
    As for sound quality, my proper HiFi system, does very well thanks.
    Well, who cares really. Most proper HIFI sound system sound like crap because of room acoustics and improper setup, so if you solved that good for you, otherwise you'd be part of the many people that stopped buying those "proper" system (look at their sales) and switched to single speaker setups were they could move the speaker to the best position instead of having to live around that elusive sweet spot.


    It's not that tough to properly tune a modern sound system for a room.  Many of them come with the tools built into the receiver.  My Yamaha receiver did, and it works quite well. And it didn't cost any more (on sale) than the HomePod will.

    And while I can't at the moment perceive a use case that would prompt me to buy one of these, I can see where some people might want something like this, especially the sub $50 ones from other manufacturers.  Most music listeners don't care about HiFi sound quality, only that it's "good enough," so the additional quality of the Apple entry isn't a value add for them. 

    It is not doing it for every music, ever change in the room, every sound level as it happens.

    One of the reason many users didn't value it is because it was very hard to get (especially when you have many different users with different music tastes) and you needed to go to one spot to get it. Convenience won out because over quality because there was  no way to get that quality at a reasonable price, not because the middle market suddenly stopped caring about quality at all.

    Small single speakers like those by Bose and Sonos have shot up in sales because there is a market for this kind of quality.
    That's where Apple wants to live, not for people who never sought it out at any price.

    If you can provide high quality audio in a convenient way, many people (Apple is not catering to extreme audiophiles or the low market) will buy.
    A premium experience at and affordable price is basically Apple's core market.
  • Reply 80 of 121
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    dysamoria said:
    foggyhill said:
    "Ahead of the competition"

    Well, he would say that wouldn't he?

    Never mind Tim, I won't be buying one or any other ''Home assistant' for that matter.
    As for sound quality, my proper HiFi system, does very well thanks.
    Well, who cares really. Most proper HIFI sound system sound like crap because of room acoustics and improper setup, so if you solved that good for you, otherwise you'd be part of the many people that stopped buying those "proper" system (look at their sales) and switched to single speaker setups were they could move the speaker to the best position instead of having to live around that elusive sweet spot.
    I don't care so much about the "sweet spot". I DO CARE about stereo sound. You don't need to sit frozen in a perfect environment to hear the benefits of stereo sound. I don't understand why everyone is moving backwards in music playback- or maybe I do: the commoditization of music is simply continuing down the path corporatism has laid out for it. Who needs depth and subtlety in playback systems for music that lacks either?
    Man, you sure talk low and high both going for being some kind of mighty lord of music and some communist man of the people at the time. Get over yourself.

    Most sound setup in houses are total absolute crap, with echo, delay, all sorts of losses in frequencies and most use cases are nowhere near the center of the room and they also have no space to put many speakers and wiring them is a mess.

    BTW, this speaker has many speakers and can do "stereo" but not in a traditional sense. I don't consider stereo all that great in translating reality of live performance so not even sure what we are talking about anyway. The ultimate goal is getting something that sort of reflects the actual performance, a speaker, even in one spot that can use the room acoustic to transmit howhever number of channels there are in the source will be must closer than traditional stereo at doing it.

    When speakers can coordinate with each other and share what they learn in real time about room acoustic, then we will be really talking.
    tmay
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