“We think one thing that was missing from this market was a quality audio experience, a very immersive audio experience,” Cook said. “Music deserves that kind of quality as opposed to some kind of squeaky sound.”
Sound quality is definitely something that the early smart speakers failed at delivering, and the most popular smart speakers (the Echo Dot and Home Mini) really do sound pretty bad, so this is a natural way for Apple to differentiate the HomePod from the rest of the pack. But I don't see this as a sustainable point of distinction. Google already beat Apple to market with a high end speaker of their own with the Google Home Max, and Amazon could easily add a new Echo to their line that has great sound quality. It's easier for another company to make a good sounding speaker than it is for Apple to make Siri a better experience.
It's just sad that Apple had an unquestionable lead in the voice assistant game back in 2011 and they've lost it since then. Siri was miles ahead of what Google was doing at the time and since then Google has made their assistant more powerful and even made it fail more gracefully than Siri. How do I know this is the case? When I even hit at Siri being a bad differentiator for the HomePod on Twitter, people come out of the woodwork to tell me Siri is a nice-to-have feature and not a core feature of the speaker. Even though the entire interface is based on voice input…
I plan on ordering a HomePod and using it myself when it comes out, but the whole rollout strategy and target market segment has me baffled on this product.