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I’ve been testing Amazon.com Inc.’s new Echo Show 15. My takeaway: It’s time for Apple Inc. to get serious about the smart home and launch a giant iPad as a new hub. Also: Covid-19 again disrupts Apple’s retail operations and return-to-work plans, the company has a new office in Southern California, and the head of Apple University is gone.

The Starters

The original Apple HomePod.

Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

Apple knows that the success of its product ecosystem depends on being everywhere its customers are. 

It has iMacs on desks, iPads and MacBooks in backpacks, Apple Watches on wrists, iPhones in pockets, Apple TVs in living rooms and AirPods in ears. In the future, it may have headsets on faces and self-driving cars on roads.

But Apple has been a laggard in one key area: the home. It’s way behind rivals such as Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in smart speakers and related devices—and not by design. Apple knows the importance of the home market.

That’s why it launched HomeKit in 2014, letting customers control appliances from iPhones and iPads, and debuted the HomePod smart speaker in 2017. The initial HomePod was a flop, but a newer $99 version has sold better. HomeKit also has picked up some steam by gaining support for more types of accessories.

Still, Apple has just 5% of the smart speaker market, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Amazon, with its Alexa voice assistant, accounts for 69% of sales, with Google coming in second at 25%. 

And Apple lacks a do-it-all home hub—a device with a screen—making it all the harder to catch up.

Amazon Echo Show 15.

Photographer: Mark Gurman/Bloomberg

Apple could learn a thing or two from its rivals. After testing out Amazon’s new Echo Show 15 and the Facebook Portal—from the company now calling itself Meta Platforms Inc.—I think I know the path forward: a giant iPad.

I have found the Echo Show 15—with its large display—to be a compelling device for checking the weather, controlling smart home appliances, watching security footage, and reading notes and lists each morning. While widgets are currently limited on the device, I do think the big touch screen is a compelling platform if Amazon and developers choose to take advantage of it.

The speakers and microphones also provide a solid experience, whether it’s for Alexa voice control, watching videos or listening to music. And I’m a fan of the Echo Show 15’s versatility: It can be screwed on to a wall like a picture frame, or it can rest on a stand in either portrait or landscape position.

But for all the device’s strengths, Apple could probably make a far better one. A central home device from Apple could eliminate some of the Echo’s flaws, such as its thicker-than-necessary design, sluggish and limited software, and a subpar camera. 

Amazon Echo Show 15.

Photographer: Mark Gurman/Bloomberg

While this is obviously a lot simpler on paper than in the engineering lab, turning the iPad into a home device won’t be as hard as inventing the original iPhone. Apple already has most of the components figured out.

You …….

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2021-12-19/apple-aapl-should-sell-bigger-ipad-for-smart-home-amazon-echo-show-15-review-kxdm6h21

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