I wrote a piece for Forbes asking the question, what if HomeKit fails? It’s not something I think is altogether likely, but given the Herculean task of aligning all the various agendas, technologies and product ecosystems that Apple is trying to bring together with HomeKit, there’s a chance that HomeKit could disappoint when it’s released in the coming months.
In the piece, I outlined four possible reasons for a less-than-satisfying launch for Apple’s smart home framework:
HomeKit Doesn’t Make The Smart Home Simpler: Apple’s motivation behind HomeKit is it wants to make iOS devices the central control point for the smart home. In other words, make switching costs to another operating system even higher. Most of us are ok with locking ourselves further into the Apple ecosystem, but a part of the bargain is that we get something in return. If Apple’s effort here is something akin to, let’s say, iTunes for most of the past decade (a pretty clunky piece of software), then there’s a chance it could actually be more difficult and consumers decide to stay away.
Apple Brings Closed Approach To A Market In Need of Openness: Apple likes to own the “full stack”, which often means creating their own ecosystem and inviting others to join. In the smart home, such an approach is impossible since openness and interoperability across various device types is required. Apple likely can create a de facto standard with HomeKit, but ultimately it needs to play nice with other technologies (as it has shown it is doing with Insteon).
Reliance On Siri Proves Annoying: It’s clear that HomeKit will make fairly extensive use of Siri, but most voice control integrations with our in-home lives so far have proven either super annoying (read Xbox One’s Kinect voice commands) or not ready for primetime (like Amazon’s Echo). Siri is further along than both of these with iOS, but I’m not entirely convinced Apple will get a voice-controlled home right out of the gate.
HomeKit Proves Too Limited: From what I’ve heard, Apple has had quite a steep learning curve with the smart home. There are a significant number of moving parts and the industry’s evolving very quickly, so it’s probably right to expect the first version of HomeKit will be fairly limited in nature compared to what the vision eventually calls for. But if the goods delivered don’t meet the high expectations and deliver consumers, the high burden Apple is putting on HomeKit partners could cause some to see the price of entry as too high and pull support.
I think Apple and HomeKit will likely grow awareness of the smart home and bring the mass market into home automation. However, Apple can't perform miracles, and like in the TV space, where it’s been nearly a decade and Apple still hasn’t solved the equation, there’s no guarantee the company can wave a magic wand and “solve” the smart home.