The big picture: With Apple Music and later TV+, Apple realized it needed to aim beyond its ecosystem to help it grow as quickly as possible, a strategy that has worked well so far. Now it's also doing the same with Podcasts by making it available on Amazon's Echo smart speakers.
If people needed one less reason to drop $300 for Apple's HomePod, the company is making Podcasts available for everyone in the US who uses Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers.
The two companies announced the move today alongside Spotify, who is also linking its Podcasts offering with Alexa for free and premium users in the US. To set up the interaction, Apple Podcasts users must link their Apple ID in the Alexa app, after which you'll be able to ask Alexa to play a podcast of your choice from a library of over 800,000 podcasts.
You can do a bit more with this new link than just use the usual voice commands to manage playback. If you pause a podcast on your iPhone, you can ask Alexa to pick it up from where you left off. And you can also make Apple your default podcasts provider on your Echo device, so you no longer have to be specific when giving voice commands.
The Spotify podcasts integration works in a similar way, and you can also choose to set it up as the default podcast provider.
This is yet another instance where Apple has decided to make a service available beyond its closed ecosystem. It's a smart decision considering HomePod has only managed to capture 6 percent of the smart speaker market, which is currently dominated by Amazon's Echo family, from the lowly Echo Dot to the high end Echo Studio.
There have been rumors as of late of a smaller, cheaper HomePod being in the works, but if that ever materializes, it's hard to imagine it will change the current situation. After all, Apple sees the most growth opportunity in the services space, despite aiming to sell over 100 million iPhone 12s and adding lots of new features to its current HomePod speaker.
Apple is reportedly also working on a premium subscription for Podcasts to take on Spotify, who has been building a strong selection of exclusive podcasts thanks to a few strategic acquisitions. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to make the new integration between Alexa and Apple Podcasts available in other regions, and maybe -- fingers crossed -- release it on Android like it did with Apple Music.