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The language Apple used Friday to delay the release of its highly anticipated HomePod speaker was both amusing and telling. “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers,” the company wrote in statement. “We can’t wait” is an Apple verbal tick, an earnest misdirection meaning, “We’re rather excited.” In fact, Apple can wait and so must its fans and investors. The pricey speaker-come-lately has missed a self-imposed deadline, leaving us to guess why.
Even as Apple surges toward $1 trillion in value, its doubters relish these moments as proof that Apple can’t innovate anymore. It’s not nearly the first company to plan a “smart” speaker. Amazon pioneered the category. Google is making a game effort. Chinese search engine Baidu recently said it plans an entry too.
As Apple fans never tire of pointing out, though, Apple has rarely been first to anything. Sony’s Walkman far predated the iPod. Nokia ruled smartphones before Apple. No matter your interpretation of Apple’s success with its Watch, it has become a leader—and it wasn’t first to market.
So is the HomePod delayed because Apple is having trouble making it? Or because it is nervous about the proposed price point? Or because Siri is underperforming Alexa? And will it matter to Apple’s bottom line if the HomePod misses Christmas 2017 but surges in 2018?
Perhaps these will be questions to ask the device—once we get our hands on it.
Joe Matthews, a columnist for a non-profit called Zocalo Public Square, performs the difficult task of writing about all of California, a state as big, powerful, wealthy, and diverse as many countries. That means he must tie together interests from entertainment to agriculture to technology and beyond. A good example is his recent tale of two towers, a look at L.A.’s Wilshire Grand Center versus San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower. One, he says, looks out over a wasteland that isn’t the capital of anything. The other speaks to the entitled power of a rising elite. It’s a good read.