A new report from Bloomberg claims Apple’s HomePod project began long before the appearance of Amazon’s Echo, but that the endeavor underwent false starts, cancellations and multiple redesigns to get to the product Apple expects to release next year. Sources close to the development said Apple was blindsided by the appearance of the Echo after spending two years developing its own similar product. As executives struggled to figure out how to produce something that fit in with Apple’s existing products—at one point envisioning a 3-foot tall speaker — the home speaker that started as an Apple employee side project became something that is much more an accessory than its own standalone product.
Unlike the Echo and Google’s Home Mini, the HomePod will be fairly limited in its capabilities, playing music, controlling some smart home devices and sending messages through tethered iPhones. One of the sources called the HomePod’s final version “a huge missed opportunity,” relegating Siri to simply controlling music playback rather than truly empowering Apple’s personal assistant as the Echo did for Amazon’s Alexa. While the Echo is positioned at the center of Amazon’s ecosystem, the HomePod requires a tethered iPhone to do things like open apps (if the apps are even supported by HomePod at all).