Apple (AAPL) should sell a bigger iPad for Smart Home; Amazon Echo Show Review 15

Cupertino, December 19, 2021

I tested the new Echo Show 15 from Amazon.com Inc. My assessment: it's time for Apple Inc. take the smart home seriously and launch a giant iPad as a new hub. Also: Covid-19 is disrupting Apple's retail operations and plans to return to work, the company has a new office in Southern California, and the head of Apple University has left.

Beginners

Apple Inc.  launches HomePod in stores

Original Apple HomePod.

Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich / Bloomberg

Apple knows that the success of its product ecosystem depends on wherever its customers are.

It has desktop iMacs, iPads and MacBooks in backpacks, Apple Wrist watches, pocket iPhones, Apple TVs in the living room, and in-ear AirPods. In the future, they may have headphones on their faces and self-driving cars on the road.

But Apple is lagging behind in a key area: home. It is far behind rivals such as Google from Amazon and Alphabet Inc. in smart speakers and related devices - not by design. Apple knows the importance of the internal market.

That's why it launched HomeKit in 2014, allowing customers to control their iPhone and iPad devices, and debuted the HomePod smart speaker in 2017. HomePod was initially a failure, but a newer version of $ 99 sold better. HomeKit has also gained some steam by gaining support for several types of accessories.

However, Apple holds only 5% of the smart speaker market, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Amazon, with its Alexa voice assistant, accounts for 69% of sales, with Google in second place with 25%.

And Apple lacks a home hub that can do everything - a screen device - which makes it even harder to recover.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15.

Photographer: Mark Gurman / Bloomberg

Apple could learn a thing or two from its rivals. After testing the new Amazon Echo Show 15 and the Facebook portal - from the company now called Meta Platforms Inc. - I think I know the way to go: a giant iPad.

I found that the Echo Show 15 - with its large display - is a compelling device for checking the weather, controlling smart home devices, watching security footage, and reading notes and lists every morning. While widgets are currently limited to the device, I think the large touch screen is a compelling platform if Amazon and the developers choose to take advantage of it.

Speakers and microphones also provide a solid experience, whether it's Alexa voice control, watching videos, or listening to music. And I'm a fan of the versatility of Echo Show 15: it can be screwed to a wall like a frame or it can be supported on a stand in either portrait or landscape position.

But for all the strengths of the device, Apple could probably do a much better one. A central Apple home device could eliminate some of Echo's flaws, such as its thicker-than-necessary design, slow, limited software, and a subpar camera.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15.

Photographer: Mark Gurman / Bloomberg

While this is obviously much easier on paper than in the engineering lab, turning the iPad into a home device won't be as difficult as inventing the original iPhone. Apple already has most of the components made.

You can imagine the company stretching the iPad to 15 inches, which I reported Apple is exploring, making the device a little thicker to fit more powerful speakers and relocating the camera in a landscape orientation. Insert a rear-facing power plug and a wall mount, and you have Apple's opinion on the Echo Show.

Apple would immediately have an advantage over Amazon in software, as it has an App Store and the inclusion of a state-of-the-art camera system and a fast processor should not be a problem. The company could even create a new software layer - let's call it Home mode - that optimizes the device for stationary use.

The best part is that this product can double as a regular iPad and laptop replacement, which you can take anywhere.

Amazon Echo Show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15 compared to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Photographer: Mark Gurman / Bloomberg

But there are two major warnings.

First, if Apple decides to turn the iPad into a huge home device, it won't want to compromise on quality and features. That means it will be expensive. Echo Show 15 costs $ 250. A 12-inch iPad Pro starts at $ 1,100. Imagine the price of a 15-inch version.

But Apple doesn't usually worry about charging a premium price, even if it means lower sales. Let's not forget that the original HomePod was twice the price of competing products and that the company's future mixed reality headphones will probably be at least four times the price of current VR equipment.

Second, Siri still needs to understand users, access third-party services, and take action. Apple has many thousands of people working on it, but the quality and capabilities of Siri are still behind those of Alexa and Google Assistant.

A high price and a lackluster voice assistant will not make Apple the king of smart home devices, but moving in that direction could be the beginning of a real presence. And that would be a good thing for the industry and for Apple believers.

the bank

refers to Apple should make a giant iPad as the smart home portal

Apple Park Campus.

Photographer: Sam Hall / Bloomberg

Apple is planning a new office in Southern California for wireless chips. When it comes time for Apple to develop a new internal chip, it usually goes where there is expertise for that technology. Two years before Apple's chip boss Johny Srouji told staff that the development of internal cellular technology was underway, he began building an office and recruiting at Qualcomm's San Diego courtyard.

This strategy and development model has been extended to Apple's Oregon offices near Intel Corp., Florida campuses, and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and throughout Europe. Next up is Irvine, a town about an hour's drive south of Los Angeles. Irvine is known for its experience in wireless chips and hosts Apple vendors such as Broadcom Inc. and Skyworks Solutions Inc.

If history is any indication, we are just a few years away from the chips and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas designed by Apple to go with its future modems.

Apple is postponing the deadline for returning the office for the fifth time. On Wednesday morning, I learned that Apple was about to delay its return to office plans. This time, however, I was told that the change would not include a new date. Sure enough, later that afternoon, an email from Tim Cook fell into the employees' inboxes. The news: "We are postponing the start of our hybrid pilot works until a date has not yet been set."

Given the increasing number of cases and the spread of the omicron variant, this was not entirely surprising. But Cook was quick to point out that many employees have already returned - they simply do not have to return yet.

Shopping as supply chain delays are poised to disrupt peak season retail

An Apple store in Miami.

Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg

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