I read through the highlights of the Apple WWDC on Monday with a bit of excitement mixed with dread. I was happy to hear confirmation that Amazon Prime is coming to Apple TV, making the discussion of which streaming box to use less confusing for clients. For an Apple household? Get an Apple TV. For a Windows household? Get a Roku. I do still not love the Amazon Fire, because it goes into a deep sleep that disables the Ethernet port, rendering it useless unless woken up with its factory remote.
Then I read about HomePod. While I’ve been expecting “Siri-in-a-box” (TM to Seth Johnson of Blackwire Designs for that one), I’ve been dreading its announcement and release. My assumption is that it will work almost exclusively with HomeKit, rendering it impossible, or at least very difficult and unreliable, to integrate into traditional home automation systems. I do know that there is a third-party driver for Control4 from Varietas Software that pulls Control4 devices into HomeKit, so that clients will likely be able to control their home system with HomePod. Obviously, no one is sure how well this will work yet and how long the integration will last before Apple does something to break it, but it is definitely an interesting solution and something I am sure a lot of Control4 dealers will be touting.
Amazon Echo, and to a much lesser extent, Google Home, have opened the door to voice control, and it is now something that most clients inquire about and has provided an opportunity for us to go back to existing clients and upgrade their system to incorporate voice. With an official integration between Amazon and Crestron (as well as Control4), I feel confident selling the solution as long as clients are made well aware that it is cloud-based so is susceptible to delays and is not 100-percent accurate (more like 70 percent or so.)
With the launch of HomePod, many of our Apple-centric clients will want the Apple voice solution, and we will have to steer them to something else. It will be the Sonos discussion all over again: they’ve heard of something out there from a brand name and they want it, but it doesn’t play nicely within the automation sandbox. At least in this case, we have other brand-name solutions to offer from Amazon and Google and can fall back on the “Apple doesn’t play well with others” explanation. And just like Sonos, I do expect HomePod to grease the skids for the voice control discussion, just as Sonos did for distributed audio.
We are currently rewriting our marketing and selling communications to more tightly bundle the Echo with a hardware and programming package so that we have an offer ready for clients that not only works well, but is positioned as more tried-and-true solution than HomePod—as we all know, V1 of most Apple products leaves a bit to be desired and I expect HomePod to be similar. This will give us a window of opportunity to get Echos embedded into our clients’ homes and preempt the HomePod.
How do you all feel about the announcement Monday? Do you see HomePod integrating with your projects?