HomeKit at WWDC: Definition of a Soft Launch

Having spent two and a half hours yesterday watching the keynote from Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) waiting for mentions of HomeKit, I like many wondered if I could have spent my morning more productively.

But in reality, I don't think I was expecting much different. Like I've written before, Apple is slowly feeling its way into the smart home market and HomeKit is an extremely ambitious effort, probably more ambitious than they originally anticipated. 

Stacey writes that the HomeKit situation is a mess, and while I wouldn't go that far, I do think her initial report that Apple was, in some ways, delaying the launch of HomeKit until later summer was validated.  As I wrote:

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.

So in a way, HomeKit's not officially delayed, but it's not really launching out of the gate with a bang, is it? What we really have is the softest of launches, one that is so soft it can hardly be called a launch at all. 

As Stacey's piece today shows, there are challenges for smart home manufacturers with HomeKit, in large part because the hardware requires a new rev, one that leaves current models - like Ecobee's with it's recent Ecobee3 thermostat - out in the cold. This makes for a difficult discussion with those who may have purchased a new model in the last year who are wondering why their fairly new device isn't going to work with Apple's new smart home framework. Sure, you can explain that it requires new hardware with specialized silicon, but that's easier to understand if you're a industry watcher and not a consumer plunking down hard earned dollars.

Long term, the HomeKit soft-soft launch won't matter much. By the end of the year we still are forecasting hundreds of models and tens of manufacturers with HomeKit products on the market, even if today, a full year after HomeKit was announced, we're only beginning to see the faintest of evidence that HomeKit has arrived. 

Lastly, like many I was disappointed by the absence of any new Apple TV news, but we learned last week that Apple wasn't going to announce a new product. At the same time, Apple did confirm that the Apple TV is going to be a central part of their HomeKit strategy, so at least we have that going for us, right?

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