Apple is on a hiring spree to create new HomeKit Products

Imran Hussain

Apple is currently on a hiring spree to revamp its smart-home software and hardware efforts. The company already has a HomeKit framework which allows manufacturers to create compatible products, that work with Apple's Home apps across iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, Apple TV and HomePod. Compared to the competition which is led by Amazon and Google, Apple's ecosystem does not have enough support from OEMs or developers.

Google and Amazon rule the smart speaker market with 24.8% and 21.9% marketshare respectively. On the other hand, Apple only sells one smart speaker, HomePod, which has just 2.1% market share. It is also considerably expensive compared to offerings by Google and Amazon. It also does not help Apple's cause that Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are available on speaker of all types and price points from third-party manufacturers, while Siri is confined to Apple's own products and lonely speaker.

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Apple TV is the only other product that can be considered part of Apple's home efforts, but even it has fallen behind competitors, despite offering a decent feature-set. Google's Chomecast, Amazon's Fire TV and Roku are ahead of Apple TV.

Bloomberg reports that Apple is hiring engineers to work in its Cupertino and San Diego offices, to work with the smart-home group. The group is led by Andreas Gal, former Mozilla chief technology officer, who is uncharge of the software efforts for smart home devices. Apple aims to not only create its own hardware products for HomeKit, it is also working on expanding its HomeKit platform to get more manufacturers onboard.

One of the reasons that HomeKit's adoption is slower than Google and Amazon is that Apple has a strict approval process. These numbers paint a picture of how badly Apple lags behind in the smart home market:

  • Apple: 450 HomeKit devices
  • Google: 10,000 devices from 1,000 brands
  • Amazon: 85,000 devices from 9,500 brands

An interesting tidbit from the report says that Apple was working on a number of smart-home products but they were shelved:

A few years ago, teams inside Apple explored creating a wide range of smart-home accessories, such as modules for opening and closing windows, cabinets, and doors, but those efforts were put on hold, according to a person with knowledge of the work.

The reason that Google and Amazon compatible internet-connected devices are so popular are primarily due to choice and price. There is a lot of competition and users can always find the right device they want. Due to competition, the pricing also varies and users can purchase cheap smart speakers as well as expensive ones, depending on their needs. Apple's efforts leave a lot to be desired. A cheaper HomePod would be a start, along with easier approval process for manufacturers so they can prioritize HomeKit.

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