The HomePod, Apple’s answer to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home smart speakers, was unveiled in June. Apple said it would be available in December, but the company announced today (Nov. 17) that it was now delaying the launch until 2018.
“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,” Apple told CNBC. “We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.” (Quartz has reached out to confirm.)
It’s unusual for Apple, one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world, which can literally make or break a supplier’s entire business by ordering parts en masse, to miss a deadline that it’s announced. It did have a similar issue with its AirPods wireless headphones last holiday season (paywall), which were originally supposed to be available in October 2016, and only started to become available closer to the end of the year. In both instances, Apple did not specify the reason for the delay, but both products revolve around audio and Siri, so it’s possible there’s a connection.
It seems that Apple will be ceding the lucrative holiday shopping season to its rivals in the smart speaker market, which Amazon helped define in 2014. Whether the pull of a new Apple product will be enough to persuade consumers to hold off on buying an Echo or a Home (both of which start at $50, whereas the HomePod will cost $350) is unclear. But Apple’s device will only stream music from its own Apple Music service—couple that with the delay in releasing the product, and it’s possible that Apple will be facing an uphill battle with its speaker by the time it’s actually on the market.