A stop-start HomePod project prevented Apple from beating the Amazon Echo to market

Apple missed the opportunity to release its smart speaker before Amazon because it ‘dithered’ over the HomePod development. According to Bloomberg, Apple allegedly cancelled and restarted its smart speaker project numerous times. In fact, according to the report, Mac audio engineers had started work on the original version of the HomePod before Amazon began work on its Alexa-powered Echo range of speakers. 

The smartspeaker was originally a side project being worked on from engineers acquired from Bose and Harman Kardon, Bloomberg sources said. Prototypes ranged from a flat panel with a mesh screen to one measuring some three feet tall with dozens of speakers.

In 2014 the project graduated into an official endeavor at the accessories division however the Echo ‘blindsided’ the team later that year. The Apple engineers jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together. They quickly deemed the Echo’s sound quality inferior and got back to work building a better speaker. The project was then cancelled and revived several times, according to Bloomberg’s insider, and the device went through multiple permutations (at one point it stood 3 feet tall) as executives struggled to figure out how it would fit into the home and Apple’s ecosystem of products and services.

The Siri team was reportedly told that the HomePod was about music and high-quality audio, downplaying the voice assistant aspect. That still seems the case, but with the Apple HomePod only now set for release, it does seem like a missed opportunity to get in first for Apple. 

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