Despite all the logically-reasoned chat about why it couldn’t possibly fool buyers into paying more for a better device that made them happier than the cheapest knockoff or a previous, clunkier version of technology, Apple’s iPod found a base of enthusiastic users–even with its premium price nearly twice that of comparable MP3 players with more storage or solid state players with removable flash cards, and about four times as much as a basic, familiar CD-ROM player.
This comparison is coming up a lot from people critical of my (arguably healthy) skepticism around the HomePod’s ability to make a meaningful impact on the market in its current form. The iPod was criticized for many of the same things I’m saying about the HomePod and look how silly those people seem today.
Maybe, and maybe I’m looking at the iPod with rose tinted glasses, but the iPod succeeded because it delivered a better experience than the other products on the market. Not by a little bit, but by a mile. Yes, you could get an MP3 player with more storage or for less money, but the interfaces were horrid, the devices were ugly, and dragging MP3 files from your desktop to the device was old school. There was also a very aggressive and successful marketing campaign around the iPod that got people to know it and made it a hip product you had to own.
The HomePod, and my skepticism of it, largely has to do with the fact that none of that is guaranteed with this product. We know that Siri is not leaps and bounds better than Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. maybe there are some software tricks up the HomePod’s sleeves, but we have not seen them because we have not seen a human being interact with this product at all. We haven’t even heard it talk! Apple could have put Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Siri on this thing and we’d have no idea!
And then there’s the marketing campaign, or lack there of, with the HomePod. Since it was announced in June 2017 there has been no public marketing campaign I have found for the HomePod. Pre-orders went up today (I got a white one) and there are still no ads for this, no reviews, no nothing. All we know is the sound quality is ridiculously good. The last music device I can remember that used audio quality as it’s only real differentiator: PonoPlayer.
Maybe I am wrong about this and the HomePod will be a massive success and I’ll gleefully quote my writing from the past few months and say “I was such a dummy!” but I don’t feel comfortable being blindly optimistic. And again, this is not to say the HomePod will be a bad product, but I am waiting for the real pitch to be made to non-Apple fanatics like myself as to why this is something they should pay $349 for.