Apple hires new HomePod Software Head to boost lackluster speaker sales

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
Apple hires a former staff member as HomePod Software Head in hopes of competing with best-selling smart speaker Amazon Echo.




Afrooz Family returns to Apple to head the HomePod Software department. Family worked with Apple from 2012 to 2018, first as in Audio Applications and then as a Senior Audio Engineer.

According to Bloomberg, Family left Apple to co-found audio startup Sync with former Apple Industrial designer Christopher Stringer. He left Syng in early 2021 after helping to develop the startup's Cell Alpha, dubbed as the world's first Triphonic speaker.

The new HomePod Software Head received his undergraduate degree, a BA in music, from Berkley, and his master's degree in Music, Science, and Technology from Stanford University.

Apple has struggled to make a significant dent in the smart speaker market, which is dominated by speakers put out by Amazon and Google. Researchers have suggested more than two-thirds of smart speakers in the US are Amazon-branded, while Google accounts for a quarter. Apple comes in a distant third.

In March, Apple discontinued its full-size HomePod to focus on its diminutive HomePod mini, a $99 smart speaker that was announced in Fall 2020.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    Just fix siri make her the best smart assistant drives me nuts when she cant do what alexa can 
    but the speaker is great product  many of my work colleagues are impressed with the quality of the product but siri lets it down 
    williamlondonelijahgtwokatmewanantksundaramOnPartyBusinessptexidorn2itivguyJWSCtokyojimu
  • Reply 2 of 44
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,190member
    IMO, I think it was silly to drop the HomePod and just focus on the $50 speaker market with a $99 speaker. Why can't Apple do both? The regular HomePod was just way too expensive. I own 2 and I only purchased them because I got them on sale for $199 both times. I think they work great, but they're just too expensive. Apple can't always get away with its pricing schemes in every market they try to enter. 
    williamlondonStrangeDayselijahgF_Kent_Dtwokatmewanantksundarampscooter63ptexidorcaladaniann2itivguy
  • Reply 3 of 44
    How about fixing the always disconnected issue. 
    williamlondonelijahgwonkothesane
  • Reply 4 of 44
    What that tech media  never mentions in these comparisons: Amazon viewed the smart speaker as a way to increase impulse purchasing by their customers. Did that happen? Nope. 
    n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 44
    I'm normally a 100% Apple guy, but the three smart speakers in my home are all Alexa-based because Siri is useless for too many things. It's that simple. And better HomePod software isn't going to change that. My impression is that Apple's Siri division basically slept through the last decade while Amazon left them in the dust when it comes to Alexa connectivity to the internet of things. Building a better speaker doesn't matter when it comes with a dumber assistant. 
    williamlondonelijahgdewmetwokatmewanantksundaramptexidorFileMakerFellerJWSCtokyojimumichael franks
  • Reply 6 of 44
    As far as speakers, we love ‘em. Have five - two full-size, 3 minis. We use Siri on them for simple things like playing a genre of music, or HomeKit scenes or lighting commands. No issues. In general Siri sucks as they generally all do…poor grasp of context, chaining commands, etc. Long way to go till the Enterprise computer, but for basic stuff it works well enough. Never imagined I’d be giving commands such as “Dinner time!” to my living room. 
    williamlondongregoriusmpscooter63Anilu_777ptexidorn2itivguybyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 44
    Apple should just buy Sonos
    williamlondonAnilu_777byronl
  • Reply 8 of 44
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    The HP software is fine, the problem is all about the interface: Siri. The speaker's hardware (HomePox maxi at least) has great sound and apparently great mics too. Unfortunately, that's hugely let down by Siri. It's just a disaster, even if a few of the Apple fanatics here claim otherwise.

    I agree with @macxpress though, they shouldn't have dropped the Homepod maxi. Its starting price was too high, and the $50 price cut it received was laughable. At 3x the price of the Amazon Echo Show and same price as an iPad - which even has a display - it was just way too expensive for the market to bear. An iPad can do a vast number of things, vs the HP which can do one thing well, and nothing else. Though "well" is subjective, based on whether you're using Airplay or Siri.

    I really hoped Apple would improve Siri when they made it the primary way to interact with the HP, but nope.
    edited October 14 OnPartyBusinessptexidorn2itivguybyronl
  • Reply 9 of 44
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    What that tech media  never mentions in these comparisons: Amazon viewed the smart speaker as a way to increase impulse purchasing by their customers. Did that happen? Nope. 
    How is that remotely relevant to the HP flop? Amazon sells all of their smart speakers for less than the HP mini. The initial justification used here for the price gap was privacy, but since Apple was caught sending voice clips to be reviewed by humans that argument somewhat evaporated, with no further excuses for the price.
    edited October 14 byronl
  • Reply 10 of 44
    We have three Homepods and three Homepod minis. I love the Homepods. The stereo pair connected to Apple TV in the living room is transporting. However, I needed a separate pair of speakers for my turntable. Ouch! Having said that, the minis, to my ears, do not sound great-at all. Moreover, in my office, where I have a Mac mini, iPad Pro, and iPhone, directing audio output to the mini is a pain. Add to that, I need to start playing a track to then Airplay it to the Homepod. Ouch. The software and services do not impress at all. Everyday, I want to throw the mini out the window. 
    twokatmewStrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 44
    F_Kent_DF_Kent_D Posts: 85unconfirmed, member
    How is that remotely relevant to the HP flop? Amazon sells all of their smart speakers for less than the HP mini. The initial justification used here for the price gap was privacy, but since Apple was caught sending voice clips to be reviewed by humans that argument somewhat evaporated, with no further excuses for the price.
    You’re not telling the whole story here about people  listening to recordings. Recordings weren’t tied to specific accounts like Alexa’s are. The report says there’s no identifiable information regarding where the recordings came from. There’s a big difference in the way recordings are reviewed by actual people. 
    williamlondontwokatmewbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 44
    I own 13 HomePods..a mix of the legacy and the new.  The original version is fantastic.  I have the arranged in pairs… I have the new ones set to augment in some situations or to be used at night so as not to disturb neighbors.  I also have 2 pairs of echo studios.  They do not sound as good but since Siri sucks, I have them for Alexa.
  • Reply 13 of 44
    elijahg said:
    What that tech media  never mentions in these comparisons: Amazon viewed the smart speaker as a way to increase impulse purchasing by their customers. Did that happen? Nope. 
    How is that remotely relevant to the HP flop? Amazon sells all of their smart speakers for less than the HP mini. The initial justification used here for the price gap was privacy, but since Apple was caught sending voice clips to be reviewed by humans that argument somewhat evaporated, with no further excuses for the price.
    Echos are a flop if you consider why they are sold and not just worshipping at the church of market share. 

    As @foregoneconclusion mentioned, they were introduced to facilitate impulse purchases from Amazon. The last time I saw an article about that, which was a couple of years ago, admittedly, it was something like less than 2% of Echo owners had used it to buy products from Amazon, and even fewer had tried more than once or twice. 

    There’s a lot of talk about how bad Siri is but Alexa is worse from what I’ve seen. Echos seemingly can’t hear very well if there is any other sound present, like a TV in the next room, and require yelling to be heard. 

    A couple weeks ago I got to witness my friend repeatedly ask for the hourly weather at 1:00 only for Alexa to respond with “the hourly weather at 9:00 is…” That sort of thing happened frequently. Same thing for Alexa giving an answer that completely didn’t match the question or randomly starting to talk when nobody was addressing it. 

    Those examples do not support the wonderful utopia Alexa is on the internet. 
    williamlondonpscooter63Solomon_GrundyJWSCStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 44
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    F_Kent_D said:
    How is that remotely relevant to the HP flop? Amazon sells all of their smart speakers for less than the HP mini. The initial justification used here for the price gap was privacy, but since Apple was caught sending voice clips to be reviewed by humans that argument somewhat evaporated, with no further excuses for the price.
    You’re not telling the whole story here about people  listening to recordings. Recordings weren’t tied to specific accounts like Alexa’s are. The report says there’s no identifiable information regarding where the recordings came from. There’s a big difference in the way recordings are reviewed by actual people. 
    Apparently that is not true and significant personal data was included:

    "According to the British daily, “there have been countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on. These recordings are accompanied by user data showing location, contact details, and app data.”

    and 

    "the big issue is that these voice snippets end up being accessed by humans—contractors working for the company around the world—that should not have been authorized in the first place and could provide enough details to identify a user"
    edited October 14 muthuk_vanalingamn2itivguy
  • Reply 15 of 44
    twokatmewtwokatmew Posts: 31unconfirmed, member
    All my smart speakers are Sonos, except for a 3rd gen Echo Dot in my basement. Alexa has her issues, but she’s so much better than Siri. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 44
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    elijahg said:
    What that tech media  never mentions in these comparisons: Amazon viewed the smart speaker as a way to increase impulse purchasing by their customers. Did that happen? Nope. 
    How is that remotely relevant to the HP flop? Amazon sells all of their smart speakers for less than the HP mini. The initial justification used here for the price gap was privacy, but since Apple was caught sending voice clips to be reviewed by humans that argument somewhat evaporated, with no further excuses for the price.
    Echos are a flop if you consider why they are sold and not just worshipping at the church of market share. 

    As @foregoneconclusion mentioned, they were introduced to facilitate impulse purchases from Amazon. The last time I saw an article about that, which was a couple of years ago, admittedly, it was something like less than 2% of Echo owners had used it to buy products from Amazon, and even fewer had tried more than once or twice.
    You are spouting Trump levels of alternative facts here to try and support your claim the vastly successful Echos are actually a flop. If their apparently only intended purpose of increasing sales has not been a success, why does Amazon still sell them? For fun?
     

    There’s a lot of talk about how bad Siri is but Alexa is worse from what I’ve seen. Echos seemingly can’t hear very well if there is any other sound present, like a TV in the next room, and require yelling to be heard. 

    A couple weeks ago I got to witness my friend repeatedly ask for the hourly weather at 1:00 only for Alexa to respond with “the hourly weather at 9:00 is…” That sort of thing happened frequently. Same thing for Alexa giving an answer that completely didn’t match the question or randomly starting to talk when nobody was addressing it. 

    Those examples do not support the wonderful utopia Alexa is on the internet. 

    Then you need to widen your horizons. Whilst I agree Echos don't hear as well, at least when they do hear they actually understand most of the time and do what you ask rather than "sorry, i'm having problems with the connection, make sure your phone is on the same network" (after confirming what it is I requested, and despite having access to iCloud), or "I found some web results, sending them to your iPhone..." I could list at least 10 cases where Siri screws up the most basic tasks. Oh and asking Siri for the "hourly forecast at 9am" doesn't give an hourly forecast, just the forecast at 9am. I also regularly have Siri activate when I don't want it to. Its annoying "mmhm?" makes me want to throw the HP out the window. Furthermore, Alexa has thousands of skills you can add to improve it. HP sort of has shortcuts, which actually need your phone to run and are nowhere near as powerful or ubiquitous. 

     Why you attempt to defend Siri when its comprehension is literally no better than it was when Apple bought it I have no idea. 
    edited October 14 anantksundaram
  • Reply 17 of 44
    There are some things that, put simply, Apple sucks at. 

    Speakers is one of those. 
    williamlondonmuthuk_vanalingamhaikus
  • Reply 18 of 44
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,948member
    To judge the success or failure of the HomePod we'd have to know what Apple’s intentions were/are with HomePod. Is the HomePod part of Apple's music focus or is HomePod part of Apple’s home automation focus? It can’t really be optimized for both, not in my opinion. It’s far too good as a high fidelity speaker, and too expensive, to simply be relegated to the same role that an Amazon Echo Dot serves. It's far too limited as a voice assistant to shine as an automation appliance. 

    So where does the HomePod really shine? If we look at Apple’s response to the original HomePod and the subsequent HomePod mini as an indicator, the big HomePod never truly found its home and the HomePod mini is a definite pivot towards the automation (HomeKit) segment. I say “never found its home” because Apple could have gone full-on attack after Sonos and other HiFi smart speakers with the original HomePod but instead bowed out of the market.

    Amazon doesn’t try to do too many things with any single version of its Echo speakers. The Dot is obviously an automation-forward offering and a no-brainer purchase for anyone who’s in the Amazon ecosystem and wants to add a little smarts to their life. Amazon could sell these things at the checkout aisle in grocery stores. But the Dot isn’t a music lover’s delight, but nobody cares. The larger Echos definitely sound much better with the Studio being within sniffing distance of the HomePod, at nearly half the price. The large Studio is probably going to get parked in a location where playing music (and radio and podcasts) is its primary function. 

    Truth be told, we really don’t know why Apple discontinued the HomePod and where they intend to go in this product category. We only have two data points, the original HomePod and the HomePod mini. These may be Apple dipping it’s toe in the water and their next move will set the tone for where they intend to go in this market. Or these two products may be the beginning and the end of Apple’s foray into smart speakers.
    anantksundarampscooter63ptexidorSolomon_Grundybart123ricn2itivguyStrangeDayselijahg
  • Reply 19 of 44
    twokatmew said:
    All my smart speakers are Sonos, except for a 3rd gen Echo Dot in my basement. Alexa has her issues, but she’s so much better than Siri. 
    I wouldn't boast about owning Sonos. Utterly lousy software. Clunky set up process too. 
    Solomon_Grundy
  • Reply 20 of 44
    dewme said:
    To judge the success or failure of the HomePod we'd have to know what Apple’s intentions were/are with HomePod. Is the HomePod part of Apple's music focus or is HomePod part of Apple’s home automation focus? It can’t really be optimized for both, not in my opinion. It’s far too good as a high fidelity speaker, and too expensive, to simply be relegated to the same role that an Amazon Echo Dot serves. It's far too limited as a voice assistant to shine as an automation appliance. 

    So where does the HomePod really shine? If we look at Apple’s response to the original HomePod and the subsequent HomePod mini as an indicator, the big HomePod never truly found its home and the HomePod mini is a definite pivot towards the automation (HomeKit) segment. I say “never found its home” because Apple could have gone full-on attack after Sonos and other HiFi smart speakers with the original HomePod but instead bowed out of the market.

    Amazon doesn’t try to do too many things with any single version of its Echo speakers. The Dot is obviously an automation-forward offering and a no-brainer purchase for anyone who’s in the Amazon ecosystem and wants to add a little smarts to their life. Amazon could sell these things at the checkout aisle in grocery stores. But the Dot isn’t a music lover’s delight, but nobody cares. The larger Echos definitely sound much better with the Studio being within sniffing distance of the HomePod, at nearly half the price. The large Studio is probably going to get parked in a location where playing music (and radio and podcasts) is its primary function. 

    Truth be told, we really don’t know why Apple discontinued the HomePod and where they intend to go in this product category. We only have two data points, the original HomePod and the HomePod mini. These may be Apple dipping it’s toe in the water and their next move will set the tone for where they intend to go in this market. Or these two products may be the beginning and the end of Apple’s foray into smart speakers.
    Spot on. It reflected a scattered, unfocused strategy on Apple's part, not dissimilar to its approach to AppleTV (and it shows). 

    Moreover, the fact that it can't even be used with a typical TV set -- pointing out which fact invited a lot of childish wrath in these forums -- made it useless for most people. Essentially, made it a niche product. I expect that Apple will kill it off one of these days. 
    edited October 14 elijahgmuthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
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