Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple has jumped into the smart speaker game relatively late, but it’s aiming to make up for lost time. The tech giant announced the official launch date for their Siri-powered HomePod speaker will be February 9, and Apple CEO Tim Cook promises it will make a splash.

During his visit to the headquarters of Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, Cook stated the HomePod will stand its ground against other products, like the Amazon Echo and the Google Assistant, simply with the quality of speakers Apple’s product offers.

“We think one thing that was missing from this market was a quality audio experience, a very immersive audio experience,” Cook told the Financial Post. “Music deserves that kind of quality as opposed to some kind of squeaky sound.”

Cook even welcomed the competitions and said that it “makes all of us better,” clearly stating that he has no reservations about being a little tardy to the market.

HomePod in black.
HomePod in black.

Still, a February 9 launch means Apple just missed the crucial holiday shopping season. Unless everyone wants the HomePod as a Valentine’s Day — or, hey, President’s Day! — gift, that’s not optimal timing for the HomePod. Amazon reportedly sold millions of Alexa devices during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Google also reportedly sold about seven million smart speakers during this past November and December.

It’s not just that people are no longer in the shopping mood — it’s that millions of people have already picked up one of the HomePod’s direct competitors. So will consumers be compelled to go out and buy the HomePod even after perhaps picking up a similar product?

Manish Nargas, a consumer researcher analyst for IDC Canada, tells the Financial Post it could happen, but Apple needs to carve out its niche in the market straight away.

“They already are late to the game and know that, so they want to put their best foot forward at this point,” said Nargas. “Siri is perhaps not as smart of an assistant as an Amazon Alexa or a Google Assistant is, but that said they want to make sure they are creating other use cases for the HomePod (such as music) and making sure from the get-go they are good.”

The Apple HomePod comes with larger speakers than its counterparts, integrates with Siri — the iPhone’s digital assistant — and syncs with Apple Music. So perhaps power-iPhone users will be swayed to pick this product up for a speaker that seamlessly works with their phone.

We’ll have to wait and see how smart speaker performs in its first couple of weeks on the market.