I make no bones about the fact that I’m an Apple fan, and have been for years. I don’t claim to be objective when talking about them, or about tech in general. However, I know enough to take a step back from time to time. There is a difference between being a fan of a company and their products, and being a shill.
Sure, I can stray too far over that line at times, as many tech bloggers do. It is easy to be a fanboy, at times. However, I understand one very important fact that keeps pulling me back where I need to be: There is nothing to be gained from blind love and devotion to Apple, because they don’t love me back.
The demise of the Apple’s AirPort WiFi Router has been like watching something fade away in slow motion. The AirPort line hasn’t been updated since 2013, which is an eternity in the tech world and Apple actually disbanded the team that worked on these products back in 2016. Based on those facts alone, I’m kind of surprised that Apple let the line linger this long.
I have never engaged in substantive political discussion here on the site, and its not something I plan to make a habit of. I only bring this issue up now, since the current re-awakening of the gun control debate has curiously intersected with Apple in a way that I doubt they ever would have foreseen.
In case anyone either wonders or cares, here is my baseline- I am not a Republican or a Democrat. In fact, I absolutely loathe the modern incarnations of both mainline political parties and the weak and pathetic candidates they routinely trot out. If that offends you, then you should probably stop reading now, because I am not sorry for it. I am a card-carrying Libertarian, and I am a Conservative by the classic definition, not the strange and decidedly not Conservative Republican one.
As for guns, I will say this for the record. I am a lifelong gun owner and shooter. I have hunted with my Dad since I was a kid. I received a lot of valuable instruction on how to handle and respect firearms while I was young, so I know what they are capable of and handle and use them accordingly. I still own many guns, but none of them are what you would call “assault weapons.” I am not an NRA member because I don’t approve of their use of fear tactics to hold a hard and unrealistic line on gun control.
With the HomePod arriving tomorrow for those who preordered, there is even more talk about what the future holds for this new Apple hardware platform and also about what Siri can and can’t do on the device. The initial reviews have been almost uniformly glowing over the speaker’s sound quality, but not so over Siri’s very noticeable limitations. I won’t get my hands on mine until late tomorrow evening when I return home from Boston, but I am certainly looking forward to trying it out for myself.
With the HomePod showing up on my doorstep next Friday, I’ve been doing some thinking about Siri lately. Why is the overall impression of Apple’s digital assistant so negative? There are recent surveys and tests showing it as being competitive with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana in some areas. There is real evidence that many “normal” users aren’t as dissatisfied with it as we in the tech community and the “Apple bubble” are. So what is the problem? Where is the disconnect?
I’ve seen an interesting combination of concern, complaints, dismissiveness, and derision over the HomePod across Twitter, Apple blogs, and tech sites over the past few days. The preorder and announcement of the final release date for the device, as well as a lack of any other substantive Apple news at the moment seem to have stoked the fires of discussion and opinion.
I can understand many of the reasons, and I even agree with many of you that Siri isn’t on par with other digital assistants in many ways, that the HomePod’s high price could be a limiting factor, and that it is showing up more than fashionably late to a fast-moving party. However, despite the concerns and complaints, the reasons behind the design and focus of the HomePod still make sense if you look at Apple’s recent hardware and software efforts.
[Update: The HomePod did NOT go on sale at 12 AM PST as most Apple news outlets and I expected, breaking the usual iOS-based device release mold. Apple didn’t shut down the online Apple Store last night and the HomePod still isn’t available for preorder. Apple has not made any official statement, but it has been mentioned by several people on Twitter that Apple does an automatic refresh of their website at 6:01 AM PST every day. It is now expected that the link to preorder the device will show up then, but who knows? It’s also possible that Apple is running a massive social engineering experiment to see how well it has conditioned its fans to get up at odd hours to preorder devices. If so, then based on the number of comments I saw on Twitter early this morning, I say well played, Apple. Well played.]
[Update 2: I was able to order the HomePod with launch day delivery. I’m not sure when exactly it hit the Apple Online Store for preorder, but I know it was before 8 AM CST because I checked while stopped in rush hour traffic on the way to work, and there it was. I completed my order around 8 AM CST, but it was released between 10 to 30 minutes before that I hope Apple avoids being this random with future preorders, but it is what it is.]
HomePod preorders begin in a little over four hours [nope], so if you live in the Eastern or Central Time Zones and are planning to get up super early, it might be a good idea to turn in early, or at least catch a nap if you can [a nap sounds somewhere between good and necessary today]. With this new hardware finally coming into clearer focus, now is a good time to recap some of the additional information that has come to light since the countdown to release started ticking earlier this week.