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Apple Preps Amazon Echo Rival – Is This The Connected Intelligence Moment?

Siri has gotten smarter with the latest iOS 10 update. But Amazon Alexa And Okay Google have a strong hold on consumers' interest on voice-activated devices.

While observers and consumers have been wondering when Apple will bring the world its own voice-activated, connected intelligence device to challenge Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, it appears that the digital personal assistant accessory could be previewed as early as next month at Apple’s developer conference on June 5.

As first reported by AppleInsider — with more details  in a series of tweets from Mashable’s VP of Content Strategy Jen Ryall — Apple’s device is likely to be pricer than the Amazon Echo, in keeping with the Cupertino brand’s “aspirational,” as opposed to “mass,” appeal.

Apple HomeKit on iPhone

Apple’s Connected Intelligence Aspirations

But the features of the Siri-powered device also boasts some high-end features to match the higher cost to consumers. Citing an analyst note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, AppleInsider says the device promises richer sound via one large speaker and seven smaller ones as Apple seeks to emphasize its entertainment value, rather than a quotidian and friendly Q&A qualities associated with Alexa and the Google Home Assistant.

Aside from tapping into consumers’ aspirational desire for advanced technology products, Apple has always sought to be seen on improving on existing devices that have shown traction.

For those with a long memory, Mp3 players had been steadily gaining ground for years until Apple released the iPod in the fall of 2001 and ushered in the fullest change in the way music is bought, sold, and listened to since the advent of CDs 25 years before. (On the other hand, the jury is still out on the success or failure of the Apple Watch’s first two versions.)

With adoption of digital voice-activated assistants more than doubling in Q1 as 76 percent of consumers having used spoken commands to their connected device, the timing could hardly be better for Apple’s entry into the space currently commanded by Amazon and Google.

Apple could move 12 million units of its voice-activated device in its first year, Kuo estimates. Even by the usual Apple product expectations, CEO Tim Cook will have to manage exceedingly high anticipation to manage. 

The Beginning Stage

While entertainment use cases will likely be the way Apple hooks consumers into considering its Echo rival, the Siri-powered device will also drive the interest in smart home products. And that will advance the use of voice search as the way consumers find the information and places that drives discovery and the purchase path.

The impact the way voice search changes the dynamic between people and businesses interact will call “the entire utility of a website” into question, Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp told GeoMarketing’s Lauryn Chamberlain in a conversation about the changing nature of digitally-driven commerce.

Apple’s improvements in both Siri and in Apple Maps, coupled with Apple’s universe of Macbook and iPhone users means it will have an immediate effect on how marketers, agencies, and tech vendors respond to businesses’ place-based needs and information.

At the moment, hospitality, retail, and even QSR brands are examining the role that voice-activated assistants could play in complementing service and sales staffs at their respective hotels and stores.

But those categories are also likely to be influenced by the use of voice-activation in entertainment, automotive, and consumer electronics to improve and differentiate their product offerings, notes Dina Abdelrazik, Research Analyst, at Parks Associates.

“In the auto industry, voice assistants are not only a consumer-play in allowing for more human engagement and interaction with the driver but it’s also a safety play,”Abdelrazik says. “Voice commands help consumers keep their hands on the wheel instead of reaching for their smartphone or in-vehicle infotainment system.”

In any case, even when Apple makes its first foray into connected intelligent devices, it pays to keep in mind that this is barely the beginning stage.