It was big news last week when Amazon surprised everyone with an announcement that Apple Music is coming to their Echo products. A year ago this would have sounded unthinkable, but Apple and Amazon have been slowly drawing closer over that time. Prime Video showed up on Apple TV and then Amazon started selling new Apple devices after driving unlicensed refurbished sellers out of their Marketplace. And now this.
This move is a win for both Apple and Amazon. Apple gets its Music service access to a large and growing ecosystem of connected speakers and other assistant devices. Alexa-powered Echo devices are the most popular Home Automation platform at the moment, so it is really smart for Apple to tap into that.
As for hardware, Apple has never preferred to make inexpensive commodity devices, but relying only on their own more expensive devices boxes them into a corner when it comes to spreading their Services. Now they don’t have to worry about it. They can let Amazon’s hardware fill that role for them and keep their focus on the high end.
This move also highlights Apple’s growing focus on their Services business. Apple has always run Music as a multi-platform venture, but it is still difficult to imagine the Apple of just a few years ago favoring a service over their hardware. Today, that seems to be the new normal.
As for Amazon, they are the number three streaming music provider in the US. Now they also have numbers one and two available on their platform. Considering the rapid growth of Apple Music and the fact that it will overtake Spotify in the US (if it already hasn’t), this gives Amazon a nice edge over Google’s Home products. They are now the only brand that handles all three of the big music streaming platforms natively. That a big deal.
Both Apple and Amazon users are winners here. Now they have more choice. They can go with the HomePod and Siri, or they can use Alexa-based products. This is a particularly big move for Apple users who had already invested in Amazon’s Echo ecosystem. Now they aren’t cut off from using Apple Music on their home speakers.
While premium hardware is more about price than sheer volume, there is no avoiding the fact that Apple will lose HomePod sales because of this move. Siri is never going to be as big of a lock in as Apple Music, and now that exclusivity is gone. While I think the win is much bigger than the loss, it can’t be discounted. I love my HomePod for its sound quality, but it is now pretty much a niche product geared toward hard core Apple fans and audiophiles. To be honest, it was already thus due to its high price. However, it is now seems unlikely that new features and updates will change that too much.
The times, they are a changin’. Anyone who has doubted Apple’s intentions for their Services division can be assured now. This isn’t temporary. It isn’t a fad. This move with Amazon shows that Apple is looking at the long game with Services like Apple Music and making sure that they sign on the right partners to make it happen.