I was out last week so didn't get a chance to get to every piece of news on smart home, but I wanted to write a few things on the Apple HomeKit timing kerfuffle.
As some of you know, my former Gigaom colleague Stacey Higginbotham wrote an exclusive for Fortune that HomeKit had been delayed until possibly August or September from what was promised to be a May or June release.
Apple subsequently pushed back. The original Fortune report caused a wave of posts, and the subsequent pushback caused another wave of posts, and it was like watching a giant game of she-said/he-said.
A few thoughts on what happened here:
- First and foremost, Stacey's a great journalist, so I suspect her sources were solid. I also suspect that there was a germ of truth to the report, as I've heard similar rumors about Apple facing challenges with HomeKit.
- However, I don't think the challenges were so monumental that Apple couldn't deal with them enough for a launch of HomeKit in June. WWDC is in June, and Apple could not have afforded to let it pass without a coming out party for HomeKit.
- The reality is some HomeKit hardware is already in the channel, but the HomeKit functionality hasn't been announced yet. Being part of MFI means HomeKit isn't just a simple software upgrade, but that specialized silicon needs to be put in at the time of manufacturing.
- Many manufacturers have given ranges on the timing of their HomeKit product releases - many have said somewhere between June and August - which gives everyone some flexibility. If Apple needs to tweak things to make everything kosher with ultra-lower power devices, those products will ship later. One example is Schlage's forthcoming Bluetooth smart lock - which certainly could be considered a low power device - that won't be out until fall, about the time Stacey pointed to.
All of this is made more interesting by the news of the Apple TV refresh that will be announced at the same time. While much of the focus may be on TVKit, the forthcoming SDK that will allow third party app developers to write apps for Apple TV (finally!), I suspect Apple TV's smart home (and HomeKit) capabilities will be touted. I have long felt Apple TV will be the permanent hub needed for smart home access to make a HomeKit network work more seamlessly and not go "headless" when the iOS control device(s) leave the home.
Bottom line, expect WWDC and this next month to be fairly important time for the smart home. Many manufacturers have a whole lot riding on HomeKit, and many see the launch as a catalyst for broader smart home adoption.
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