Apple is working on multiple new products to replace the recently discontinued HomePod and bring Siri and Apple services into living rooms, according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Debby Wu and Mark Gurman.
One such product would be a device that combines the TV streaming box and gaming features of the Apple TV 4K with a HomePod-like smart speaker, as well as a camera.
The device allows users to stream TV shows, videos, music and movies using the same apps already available on the Apple TV. It would also act as a smart speaker with Siri and it would allow video conferencing on the connected TV.
Adding further evidence to the rumor, Bloomberg reports that last year Apple combined its HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups, allowing them to work more closely together.
The report says nothing about the form factor of the device, but we should note that Roku already offers a somewhat similar product, the Roku Streambar: it combines a soundbar with a streaming box and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice functionality.
Apple hasn’t updated its Apple TV 4K set-top box in several years, and the device has captured a minuscule share of the streaming box market (only 2 percent, according to Bloomberg), in part because of its high price. But recent discoveries in the tvOS beta have given the impression that a new tvOS device is coming soon, possibly a new version of the Apple TV 4K with an HDMI 2.1 port and 120 Hz support.
On the other hand, this smart speaker/streaming box combo product might be a way out. The report indicates that it is still in its infancy.
A touch screen and a robot arm
Also in early development is a new HomePod with a touchscreen, the report claims.
This HomePod variant is also said to include a video conferencing camera, and is described as essentially having a built-in or attached iPad as a display. And in an unexpected twist, the article claims that “Apple has explored how to connect the iPad with the speaker to a robotic arm that can move to follow a user around a room.”
Apple discontinued its expensive HomePod smart speaker in recent weeks after it failed to sell well, again in part due to a relatively high price. Bloomberg describes this new touchscreen product as “high-end,” perhaps suggesting it could be a more direct replacement for the recently discontinued HomePod.
After it introduced the HomePod, Apple launched a cheaper alternative called the HomePod mini that has sold better. Other tech companies have had similar problems getting users to buy expensive, high-end smart speakers; Google discontinued its HomePod-like Google Home Max, while its other cheaper smart speakers sold relatively well.
In any case, this new product wouldn’t be the only screen smart speaker: that’s a thriving product category in its own right, with products from Amazon, LG, Facebook and many other companies already on the market. Most have entry-level prices.
Also a note about the iPad Pro
Rumors and leaks have been claiming for months that a new iPad Pro would be coming this spring. That scuttlebutt has also claimed that the new iPad would have a Mini LED screen – a refinement of LCD technology that allows better contrast, among other things. Another separate Bloomberg report today claims that the new iPad Pro is still coming, but availability of the 12.9-inch model will be limited due to supply issues at the companies that produce Mini LED screens.
The iPad report claims that the new Mini LED display technology will be exclusive to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. If the smaller 11-inch iPad Pro doesn’t have the new display technology, it may not have the same delivery issues.
In recent years, Apple introduced new iPads in March, but that did not happen in 2021. However, analysts and speakers still argue that the launch of the product is imminent.