With pundits beginning to fear that Apple’s October product launches could be a snoozefest, it’s pleasing to hear that something out of the ordinary is in the pipeline: a new dock accessory that will transform the iPad into a speaker and home hub.
Mark Gurman, the prolific leaker and Bloomberg columnist, has claimed in the past that Apple is working on a new product category to challenge Amazon’s Echo Show and similar smart speaker hubs: devices that would combine elements of the iPad, HomePod and Apple TV. These products would offer a high-quality speaker, a screen, voice activation and the ability to control an ecosystem of smart-home devices and accessories.
Gurman still thinks this is on the way, but it is likely still a long way off. In his latest Power On newsletter, he predicts that the company has devised a simpler and quicker route to the same market.
Following an approach reminiscent of Nintendo’s Switch, which can act as either a stationary games console connected to a monitor or as a portable handheld, Apple’s in-development docking accessory would enable an iPad to turn into a home hub when connected, without committing the owner to a fully house-bound product. As 9to5Mac observes, this would line up as a direct competitor to Google’s recently unveiled speaker dock for the Pixel Tablet.
While this offers a more direct (and cheaper) route to market than a standalone speaker hub, this is likely to arrive in 2023.
Apple has been eyeing up the home hub market for years, but never seems able to decide what product to base its strategy around. The HomePod is limited by its lack of a screen and generally disappointing smart features, while the Apple TV is dependent on additional products; the killer home product would combine elements of both. With Amazon and Google dominating the market, Apple needs to move fast if it isn’t to be left behind.