Taipei Times is reporting that the first million Apple HomePod units have started to ship from the company’s manufacturing partner, Inventec Corp. The article reveals that about 10-12 million HomePod units are expected to ship this year with about half manufactured by Inventec and the remainder by Hon Hai Precision Industry. A Taipei Times source told the publication:
The Taiwanese company has begun HomePod shipments. However, revenue contribution from the product to Inventec is expected to be limited this quarter, as the initial shipment is not large.
Unclear When HomePod will be Available to Consumers
Apple had originally planned HomePod availability for consumers in December 2017. However, in November the company released a statement that it would not be shipping in 2017 and promised an early 2018 release date. There was some speculation at the time that the delay was meant to accommodate improvements in Siri. It is generally accepted that Siri is today less capable than Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. However, the short delay was likely not enough time to make significant advances in Siri that weren’t already underway. Instead, another Taipei times source said it related to integration challenges between the software and new hardware platform.
The delay in HomePod’s launch was caused by the fine-tuning of software and hardware integration, said another industry source who also declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
This explanation makes sense. Smart speakers have simple list of components. However, the integration of the far-field microphone array and the speech recognition software that identifies whether the “wake word” is spoken–in this case Siri–must consistently perform well or the user experience is terrible. It is one element that Amazon really nailed in its initial Echo release.
Where Will HomePod Be Available
We cannot say when HomePod will ship, but “companies in HomePod’s supply chain received a shipment notice from Apple at the beginning of this month.” That would suggest early February availability, just around the time Amazon Echo will start shipping in Australia and New Zealand. Apple HomePod is expected to be available in the U.S., UK and Australia and be priced around US$349.