Apple’s Working on ‘a Giant iPad’ for the Home to Overtake Amazon’s Echo Show

New HomePod Concept Credit: Pwign / Twitter
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It’s fair to say that Apple’s home strategy has been hard to pin down, especially when looked at in contrast to its razor-sharp focus on the iPhone. Nonetheless, Apple’s efforts with the Apple TV, HomePod, and HomeKit show that it’s a market the company clearly wants to be in and still seems to be actively working on.

As any Apple fan knows, the company is rarely the first to enter new markets. Instead, Apple bides its time until it can get things right, and then it fires the shot heard around the world. We’ve seen this time and time again with the iPhone, the iPad, Apple Pay, and the Apple Watch.

Of course, not every one of Apple’s entries is a home run. After all, there’s also the HomePod, the Apple TV, and its now-defunct lineup of AirPort routers.

It’s also probably not a coincidence that Apple’s most pedestrian product attempts have been those for the home. It’s not that the original HomePod or the Apple TV were bad products per se; they were merely niche products that never garnered wide appeal due to high prices and limited scope.

Apple clearly failed to read the room when it came to products like the HomePod, but let it not be said that Apple isn’t a company that learns from its mistakes. The HomePod mini has been a significant course correction, and by all indications the smaller and more affordable speaker is selling like hotcakes — so much so that Apple recently expanded it into multiple colours to suit your home decor.

As great as the HomePod mini is, however, it’s still only part of a larger home ecosystem that’s missing one key component — a true “home hub.”

Until now, Apple has been content to have its HomeKit environment driven mostly by Siri and the Home app on the iPhone and iPad. Granted, Apple is in a unique position in that regard, since it already has a vibrant hardware platform, unlike competitors like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Many would argue, however, that Amazon and Google are still eating HomeKit’s lunch when it comes to whole-home automation. Not only do they boast a significantly wider array of compatible devices, but both companies also produce real smart home hubs that provide a central point of access and control for the entire family.

While some folks are content to put an iPad into this roleeven an older model can work great for this — it’s not quite the same as a device that’s been designed expressly for this purpose.

‘A Giant iPad for the Home’

In the latest issue of his Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggests that it’s time for Apple to get with the program and release a dedicated smart home hub, and he has reason to believe that the company is working on something deep within its R&D labs that would effectively amount to “a giant iPad for the home.”

While this is obviously a lot simpler on paper than in the engineering lab, turning the iPad into a home device won’t be as hard as inventing the original iPhone. Apple already has most of the components figured out.

Mark Gurman

Apple’s goal for this, Gurman suggests, would be to create a device that would be as powerful as a current iPad, but larger and more specifically designed to meet the needs of a central console for the whole family to enjoy.

While some of Gurman’s information seems speculative, he envisions a 15-inch iPad that would be “a bit thicker to fit more powerful speakers” and feature a “landscape-first” oriented camera.

Throw in a rear-facing power plug and wall-mount support, and you have Apple’s take on the Echo Show.

Mark Gurman

To pull this off, Apple would also have to address the software layer, since even though the Home app isn’t bad, it’s fair to say it doesn’t lend itself to home hub use as well as the user interfaces on rival devices.

The theory here is that Apple could create a sort of “Home mode” that optimizes the device for this kind of usage, but wouldn’t otherwise detract from the iPadOS user experience. It would effectively be a UI layer that runs on top of the standard iPadOS. This would give Apple’s home hub a major advantage over its rivals, since you’d still have the entire App Store ecosystem behind it, and it would likely pack in a much higher-end camera system and A-series CPU.

In fact, Gurman suggests that the product could still “double as a regular iPad and laptop replacement that you can take anywhere.”

The biggest catch to all this is that Apple could very well price this product out of the reach of most of the market. Since Apple likely isn’t going to compromise on quality and features any more than it would with the Apple TV, it’s likely this could carry a four-figure price tag.

The Echo Show 15 is $250. A 12-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,100. Imagine the price of a 15-inch version.

Mark Gurman

To be fair, even third-party HomeKit devices have often carried a bit of a price premium compared to accessories that work with Amazon’s Alexa. Historically, this was due to the higher price required to license and add the necessary hardware encryption chips from Apple.

About four years ago, Apple opened the doors to add HomeKit support via firmware updates, but that still hasn’t resulted in the race to the bottom of the pricing scale the way it has in the world of Alexa-compatible accessories.

Of course, Apple never shies away from charging premium prices, and in fact, it typically wears that on its sleeve. To some degree, you are getting what you’re paying for here, and Apple would rather sell smaller quantities of a quality product than worry about trying to take over the entire marketplace. After all, just like HomeKit, an iPad-based Smart Home Hub will be an accessory for those who have already invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem in the first place.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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