Amid efforts to advance the smart speaker market, Apple has hired a new HomePod software chief, according to BloombergMark Gurman. The company reportedly brought the Afrooz family on board, who co-founded the high-end audio startup Syng with former Apple designer Christopher Stringer.
The $ 349 Apple HomePod reached very mixed reviews in 2018 and was discontinued earlier this year. The company has failed to visibly compete with smart speaker rivals, especially Amazon’s Echo devices and the Google Assistant speaker family.
The family worked for Apple between 2012 and 2016 and was on the original HomePod team before starting Syng. The company aimed to develop a “revolutionary” speaker to produce captivating sound, but eventually developed a fairly niche speaker, $ 1,800. Earlier, the head of HomePod software, Jason Harrison, left Apple for Airbnb last year.
Apple’s latest speaker product is the $ 99 HomePod mini, which we described in our Engadget review as an “acceptable Echo alternative.” That device would have helped sales a bit, but it didn’t wind up in a market dominated by Amazon and Google, according to him. Bloomberg.
The biggest problem with Apple’s smart speakers could be Siri and HomeKit, which are not as widely accepted as Alexa and Google Assistant. The original homePod was also quite expensive at launch. To make its way, Apple may need to change its approach and continue to improve integration – as it recently did with a mini HomePod update that made it work with Apple TV. Apple’s main goal is to merge HomePod hardware with Apple TV, according to Gurman.
Apple is hosting its Unleashed event on Monday, where it expects to launch new MacBooks and possibly AirPods, but there are no rumors about a new HomePod product coming soon.