Apple has been working on the product that ultimately became the HomePod for many years, but was blindsided by Amazon’s release of the Echo in 2014, according to a Bloomberg report. The company also decided to focus on sound quality over smart assistant features for the device, which could hamper its success.
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment. The company recently announced that the shipping date of the HomePod was delayed from December to early next year.
Development for the product that ultimately became the HomePod began around 2012, according to Bloomberg. The device reportedly underwent multiple iterations, and was cancelled a few times before finally being turned into a real product.
Variety had previously reported that one of these iterations was being developed at Beats, the headphone maker that Apple acquired for $3 billion in 2014. Apple killed that project after the acquisition, presumably to focus on its own efforts.
However, those efforts long focused on audio quality as opposed to the type of assistant functionality made popular by Amazon’s Echo. As a result, the HomePod won’t natively support third-party apps or skills when it launches next year. Developers will instead have to build HomePod support into their iPhone and iPad apps, and consumers will have to have their mobiles device at hand if they want to be able to use these apps.
Interestingly, Apple has started to put a bigger emphasis on the HomePod’s assistant features in recent weeks, going as far as tweaking the product’s web page to note that “it’s also a helpful home assistant for everyday household questions and tasks” — wording that more closely resembles the way Amazon and Google talk about their respective speaker products.