Alexa Everywhere
M.G. Siegler

Agree with most of your analysis, but am missing one point: Apple has managed to win over established product categories in the past by getting the user experience right in a not just gradually, but exponentially better way than the competition.

Doing this with smart speakers would mean to knock the CUI (Conversational UI) out of the park and offer a vastly superior voice experience. Having superior sound quality for music just ain’t gonna cut it. For audiophiles, a single small device will not be able to produce sound that’s better than what they already have in their homes.

However, after an early lead with having been the first with a voice assistant back in 2010, Apple woefully neglected the technology ever since, only making enough improvements to barely keep things above ground iOS release after iOS release.

Looking at their (lack of) involvement in relevant voice technology conferences, research, or the specialist job market, as well as the fact that a “volatile” voice UI is simply a different animal from GUIs or tangible products that Apple dominates, I see no reason to believe that they will impress a market that’s becoming more and more aware of what is possible in this space, with an assistant that

  • Can actually hold a conversation for longer than 1–2 steps without losing context
  • Answer enough general knowledge questions to stay head-to-head with Google or even Amazon, let alone supersede them
  • Integrates with enough apps and 3rd party APIs to add true value on a consistent basis, not just with island tasks such as setting a reminder or booking the occasional dinner table
  • Has access to and takes into consideration enough sensors and knowledge points about us to be a real assistant vs just a one-dimensional question answering or “home automation” system that turns a light on or off
  • Finally delivers on a promise that the entire technology industry has essentially blatantly lied to us about to date: that these systems truly learn about us and “get better over time”. So far, after years of use, my iPhone can’t even figure out that the first app I need when turning the phone back on after landing in a new place is my preferred ride-hailing app… Shame on you, AI industry.

Don’t get me wrong: I admire Apple and love most of their products, and I WANT to be wrong with all of the above. I just get the feeling that I won’t…

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