The Verge recently ran an article speculating that Apple will release its Echo competitor at WWDC. I’ve got a few thoughts about this.
First, I'm happy to see that rumor sites are starting to treat the existence of an Apple device that competes with the Echo as a certainty. Apple’s always been so hesitant to release new products that part of me has wondered if they will even enter this space. An Apple Siri/AirPlay device makes a lot of sense for those of us invested in iCloud based services.
Second, I think such a product could provide a real test for Apple’s design chops. I'm sure the industrial design will be very … well … Apple but I'm more curious to see how they implement a voice-only operating system. We’ve got an example of that right now in the iPhone Siri but a device that plugs in the wall with always-on power and released from the power constraints you get with mobile devices could be interesting.
Third, I think the existence of a such a product would signal Apple opening Siri up further for third party development. I don’t mean I think Apple would open it up to third parties the way Amazon has but I do think a product like this would only make sense if Apple were simultaneously opening up more categories of applications with Siri hooks. An obvious one would be audio controls. If I could use such a device to start a podcast in Overcast or a playlist in the Sonos app, things could get interesting.
Finally, Apple’s Echo competitor could be fundamentally different because of the simple existence of iOS. We’ve all already got iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV’s around our homes and Apple would be foolish not to try and leverage that fact into such a device. As one example, think about how Apple now let’s you bounce television programs from your Apple TV to you iPad. Why wouldn’t you be able to bounce a podcast from the Apple Echo-thingy to your iPhone?
Will Apple announce such a product at WWDC? I’ve got no clue. I could make the case for it if they truly are expanding Siri hooks with iOS 11 but I don’t think Apple is all that eager to release hardware at WWDC, especially now that they have their own theater on campus. If I was a betting man, I'd say a product like this gets its own event.