Apple HomePod
Adding an iPad-like to display to the HomePod could give Apple an answer to Amazon Echo Show and other smart displays.

News today that Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) is re-loading and ready to take another run at the smart home market. Specifically: smart displays.

Bloomberg reports that Apple is working on an idea for a upcoming product that will feature a voice-assistant based speaker (Siri) in combination with an iPad-like screen.

In essence this would be a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo Show smart displays which currently lead the market.

So far Apple’s efforts here in the smart home segment have been, well, underwhelming. The HomePod speaker was pricey and couldn’t justify its premium over better performing alternatives from Amazon and Google. A few years ago, Apple dropped the price — and eventually discontinued the top end model.

Yet, HomePod at $299 USD it’s still a bridge too far for many who are just looking for a helpful speaker that can stream Spotify and provide basic smart home control in a jiffy. Things, again, the Amazon Echo does with ease for far less.

In any case, as Bloomberg notes it’s not a stretch to imagine that if Apple does go after smart displays that it would also bundle Apple TV functionality.

This would be similar to how Google bundles YouTube TV functionality (or at least a non-premium variant) with its Nest Hubs and how Amazon bundles Amazon Prime Video with its Echos. It’s all about the ecosystem and wrapping in as many associated services to help attract the consumer to various subscription services.

Per Mark Gurman of Bloomberg:

“The new offerings may help revive Appleā€™s fortunes in the smart-home category. The company held 2% of the TV streaming device market in 2020, according to Strategy Analytics, while the HomePod has had less than 10% of the smart speaker market for most of its existence.”

It’s somewhat surprising that Apple has been slow to take on Amazon (and Google) in this space. Given its deep bench of technologies it should’ve been far easier to introduce hot-selling smart displays, speakers and other smart home devices.

My guess is that price is a factor. Will Apple get more aggressive on that front? Doubtful. Especially given the company’s premium positioning. However, management needs to at least clearly consider differentiation. Why would a consumer buy a more expensive Apple DisplayPod (a guess on the name!) over a Google Nest Hub or Amazon Echo Show 8 or 10?

Still, history has taught us that Apple plays the long-term game.

Sometimes being first to market — as Amazon is clearly when it comes to voice activated speakers and displays — isn’t as important as perfecting a product line-up that increasingly reinforces loyalty to a platform. With iOS, macOS, watchOS, and, increasingly, CarPlay, Apple continues to make it harder for many to make the jump to Android or Samsung, for example.