April 12, 2021
In a move aimed at addressing Apple's laggard's position in the smart home market, the CE giant is developing a new product that would combine the capabilities of its Apple TV media player and HomePod speaker along with an integrated camera, Bloomberg reported, citing "people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters."
In addition to providing core video streaming and gaming along with video conferencing functions, the device also aims to integrate Apple's Siri digital assistant, the report added. Apple reportedly is also considering a high-end speaker with a touchscreen/smart speaker that would combine an iPad with a HomePod speaker and a camera and assemble features that share similarities to products such as Google's Nest Hub and Amazon's Echo Show lineup.
Bloomberg said the set of new products are at the "early stages" and nothing has been announced. Still, someone, somewhere is already pouring drinks for the after party. "If launched, it would represent Apple's most ambitious smart-home hardware offering to date," Bloomberg wrote. A combo device would also follow the last year's integration of the company's HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups.
Apple, which declined to comment on Bloomberg's report, has yet to unveil its latest roadmap for the so-called smart home. However, integrating and expanding its products in that slice of the market would be an obvious catch-up move against Google, Amazon and even Roku, whose wares include the Roku Streambar, a connected speaker with a built-in 4K streamer powered by the Roku OS.
Apple's streaming and smart-home lineup are overdue for a refresh. As Bloomberg points out, Apple recently discontinued its premium HomePod product to instead focus on the less expensive HomePod mini. Meanwhile, Apple has not updated its Apple TV device/platform in more than three years, and has continued to cede ground in the streaming game to Amazon, Roku and Google.
But a refresh would come at a good time, arriving on scene as consumer adoption of certain smart home products continues to climb. According to Parks Associates, 49% of US broadband households own a smart speaker or smart display, "driving voice to the forefront of the connected home consumer experience."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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