The news: While MacBook Pros and the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors were the big announcements at Apple’s fall event, the company also refreshed its popular AirPods wireless earbuds and announced new colors and capabilities for its HomePod mini smart speakers.
How we got here: Apple was late to the smart speaker party with the $350 HomePod in 2018.
It sold poorly and was discontinued in favor of the smaller and cheaper $100 HomePod mini in 2020. One year later, Apple added colors and voice features like the ability to “broadcast” messages across various HomePods—features that Google’s $35 Home mini speakers offered years ago.
The problem: Apple, which traditionally comes from behind in more mature market segments before dominating them (e.g., iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch), is going to have a hard time making a bigger dent in the smart speaker space.
Apple’s HomeKit smart home ecosystem is similarly small compared with Amazon’s and Google’s burgeoning arrays of smart cameras, doorbells, sensors, and lights.
The bigger picture: HomePod mini’s limitation is that it is locked into Apple’s ecosystem and relies on a tiny HomeKit smart home platform.
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