Why Apple TV/HomeKit doesn't stand a chance against Amazon Echo

When it comes to a new Apple TV, no news is definitely not good news. Apple's radio silence on the Apple TV front, especially as a home hub, leaves the door open for Amazon's Echo.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Removing the old light switch: proof David was handy!

If anything was missing from yesterday's big Apple WWDC keynote, it was this: Apple TV. There was not a single mention of Apple TV -- not one. This despite rumors last month that Apple TV with an app store and Siri would debut at WWDC. It seems the NY Times got it right: no new Apple TV.

So what's up with that?

As the Times tells it, the product was just not ready for announcement. And that leaves a gaping whole in Apple's home control strategy: a home hub.

Apple is making some interesting inroads in home control with its HomeKit library, announcing the ability for Siri to execute HomeKit commands remotely and from the Apple Watch. But as I've mentioned before, the need to have a device in hand (or even on wrist) is far, far less convenient that simply telling Alexa (Amazon's ever-improving home hub) to turn on or off a device.

Last weekend I wired two Belkin WeMo Light Switches into my kitchen, allowing us to control the kitchen lights by request to Alexa. Yes, I was in fact, handy. I removed two analog switches from the kitchen light fixture and replaced them with WeMo fixtures and then -- wait for it -- I installed a completely non-digital, totally analog light switch in another room.

Look, I'm great with digital stuff. That's why I do this column. But something that's all analog, all by myself? Yep. Handy. Me. And didn't blow anything up!

The benefits of the hands-free service provided by Alexa is beginning to sink in. Carrying a glass in one hand and a couple of dishes in the other earlier today, I didn't have to reach for a light switch, or pull my phone out and try to find an app, or even just raise my wrist up (which would have spilled the leftover stale coffee in my cup). Just "Alexa, turn on kitchen lights" spoken in a moderate tone, and look-ma-no-hands the kitchen lights went on.

Obviously, we don't know where Apple or Google might go with home control, but it's becoming clear that if a controller is required (whether a microphone-equipped remote control) or even a wrist watch, the Amazon Echo will win.

We've recently become used to carrying our phones with us wherever we go, but when we're moving around our home (or our home office), we can't always spare a hand. We're busy. We're doing stuff. We're carrying stuff.

Adobe reports Apple TV beat Roku in premium TV views and Apple TV represents 62 percent of all authenticated long-form pay TV views. While Apple TV may have stand-out benefits as a video platform, across-the-room voice response is a winning formula for home control.

That said, here's Amazon's challenge: the Echo will need to be a $99 device for everyone, and it will need to be available without a waiting list and in stores like Best Buy. Otherwise, it will remain a niche, specialty device and Apple will do what Apple does best: own the mass market.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

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