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HomePod, Apple's entry in the emerging smart home speaker market, was announced at WWDC 2017 and scheduled to arrive in time for the lucrative holiday buying season. That timeline, as you may have heard, is no longer accurate as Apple recently pushed the launch back to early 2018.
As it turns out, delays aren't anything new for the project.
Bloomberg recounts in a recent write-up that Apple engineers had been working on a version of the HomePod speaker as a side project for about two years when Amazon surprised everyone with the introduction of its Echo smart speaker in 2014.
The original HomePod was conceived by a group of Mac audio engineers that wanted to create a product that audiophiles would approve of. Several of the early participants had work experience with big-name speaker makers and had a desire to perfect a technology called beam forming. Unsurprisingly, audio quality was a major focus on the product early on and is even touted as a differentiator in the final consumer version.
Over the next two years, Amazon's Echo fell into favor with consumers that were impressed by its Alexa voice capabilities. Apple, meanwhile, struggled mightily with its own project, internally canceling and reviving HomePod several times while tinkering with its form factor (at one point, the speaker stood three feet tall).
Apple ultimately pressed forward with the project and settled on the design that was shown off at its developer conference in June. Years of indecisiveness, however, will soon be felt. In addition to the recent delay, HomePod won't be nearly as versatile as Echo in terms of voice commands. According to at least one unnamed Apple insider, this is a huge missed opportunity.
HomePod will sell for $349 when it launches in the US, the UK and Australia early next year.