Humans are interesting creatures. All to often we do exactly what we know we should not, despite knowledge of potential consequences. You see this in human habits of smoking and overeating, lying and cheating, injustice and power. If there is one thing to be understood from recorded human history going back about 5,000 years or so, it’s this; not much has changed.
Today we’re on the cusp of a technological revolution which could threaten our very existence as a species, and certainly will have an impact on our lives, and we’re not paying much attention to what is going on beyond the glitter of gadgets we purchase by the hundreds of millions each year.
This is the season of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show of 2018, and the hot news is advanced techno-gadgets, yes, but less is being said about the pervasive invasion taking place thanks to our addictions on all thing electronic.
Michael Simon on CES:
Apple never really participates in CES, but there was a time when Apple would dominate the show without showing up. Not too long ago, booths would be filled with clocks, cases, speakers, and pie-in-the-sky concepts specifically made for the iPhone, and the buzz would be all about the next Apple product in the pipeline.
Those days are gone because Apple’s competitors are passing the company in mindshare and marketshare with interactive gadgets that do more than what customers think they do. In this regard, I’m not sure if Apple is acting with restraint and considerations of privacy and security, or is just woefully behind the times.
CES is all about making the dumb things in your home smart. And more often than not, Alexa is the way you’ll control them.
Remember, CES is the technologist’s Mecca, and what gets shown off there does not always become mainstream. Technologists are not as good at predicting the future as they are at throwing tech gadgets against the wall to see what sticks.
Amazon’s early bet on the smart home has paid off in a big way, and its full-on press with its family of Alexa-powered devices has created a platform dedicated to controlling the gadgets around our home. And no matter how much better the audio from the HomePod sounds than an Echo, it won’t do much to close the gap.
Somehow or another, ubiquity matters, but lets not forget that Amazon Echo sells in the tens of millions while Apple has Siri running on more than 1-billion devices, so it’s not as if Apple is doomed by its absence at CES.
Remember HomePod? Apple announced its own high class version of Echo last year, promised it by end of 2017, and here we are moving along toward WWDC and HomePod is nowhere to be seen. Or heard.
Even if Apple’s smart speaker has the greatest sound I’ve ever heard, it’ll at best be a companion to the Echoes in people’s homes. Amazon has beaten Apple at its own game here, marrying hardware and software in a way that’s downright delightful, and it’s going to take a whole lot more than booming bass to get people to give it up.
Unless, of course, Apple steps up its Siri game a notch or two and makes it work much as Alexa works now. Those 1-billion or so Apple devices that customers use, all of which run Siri, too, is quite an army.
Even with better bass and fuller sound, HomePod is going to be a tough sell to most people looking to add a voice assistant to their homes. For the same price as a HomePod, you can buy an Echo for the living room, two Dots for the kids’ bedrooms, and a Spot for your bedroom, with a few bucks left over.
Except that our home, even with an Amazon Echo and a Dot already has three iPhones, three Macs, three iPads, and two Watches. Score: Apple 11, Amazon 2.
It’s safe to say that Apple is never going to let Siri live outside its ecosystem, and as such, it’s limited by what Apple is willing to do with it. Had Apple opened up Siri like Amazon did with Alexa or Google did with Assistant, there would be hundreds of Siri-enabled devices installed in homes everywhere, all waiting for more smart home devices to control.
Except that Siri-enabled devices already exist and more are on the way. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon and Echo and Alexa are the first movers here and that matters. I wonder about Apple. What is the company’s plan? Privacy and security? What happens to Alexa and Amazon when customers realize they are being spied upon to the point of stalking by all those little devices they have allowed into their homes?
If my understanding of how humanity works is even somewhat accurate, people just won’t pay attention, but at some point in the future, they’ll pay the piper and they won’t like the cost. Echo and Alexa, Google Home and Assistant, and their ilk, are little more than cute gadgets designed to spy on their users. Let’s hope Apple makes Siri as useful, but without all the spy paraphernalia built in.