Bad news for anyone that was looking forward to buying Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) forthcoming HomePod, either for themselves or as a holiday gift: The smart speaker is getting delayed until next year. HomePod was originally scheduled to launch in December after the Mac maker unveiled it in June at WWDC 2017. Here's the statement that Apple has sent to numerous media outlets regarding the delay:
We can't wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple's breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers. We'll start shipping in the US, UK, and Australia in early 2018.
The statement is vague and doesn't provide any indication as to the source of the delays, which could potentially be related to hardware (supply-chain logistics or manufacturing) or software (Apple has some catching up to do with Siri and smart-home technology).
Is it hardware?
In August, the Nikkei Asian Review reported that Apple's HomePod supplier Inventec suggested that volume this year would be limited. Without specifying the product by name, Inventec exec David Ho said at the time that "its contribution will be fairly limited and hopefully that will improve next year." It was widely assumed that Ho was referring to HomePod.
It's not clear why the HomePod would face supply constraints, if any. The device uses Apple's older A8 chip that was originally introduced in 2014, so that wouldn't be the source of any bottlenecks. Apple says HomePod has multiple custom amplifiers, but these probably aren't bottlenecks, either. HomePod doesn't appear to utilize any breakthrough manufacturing techniques.
It seems most likely that Apple needs "a little more time" to work out some software kinks, which could include the spatial awareness that allows HomePod to adjust its audio output based on its surroundings. Or it could relate to AirPlay 2, the newer version of Apple's wireless streaming protocol that was also detailed at WWDC, which will enable multiroom audio.
There are still those aforementioned deficiencies with Siri and smart-home technology, too.
HomePod wouldn't fit in a stocking anyway
The HomePod delay comes after AirPods were delayed last year, too. The wireless headphones were originally supposed to launch in October of last year, but were pushed back to December. Even when AirPods did launch, they were severely constrained for several months, so much so that AirPods mostly missed out on the holiday shopping season as well.
Alphabet subsidiary Google unveiled its competing Google Home Max in October, and as far as we know it's still currently scheduled to ship in December. Apple's delays are unfortunate, as smart speakers are probably going to be a popular gift category this holiday shopping season judging by the market's growth (unit volumes are expected to quadruple this year), but that's music to rivals' ears.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOG, GOOGL, and Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.