Siri may soon be making the jump from your pocket to your end table.
Apple has been working on a standalone product to control internet-of-things devices for a while, but a new report from Bloomberg suggests that the company has moved the project from a research phase to prototyping. It would theoretically be pitted against other smart-home devices, including Amazon’s sleeper hit, the Echo, and Google’s forthcoming Home Hub.
According to the report, Apple’s device would be controlled using its Siri voice assistant technology. It would be able to perform the same functions that it can complete now on iPhones, Macs, and other Apple products, such as being able to tell you when the San Francisco Giants are next playing, or possibly send a poorly transcribed text message. The device would also be able to control other internet-connected devices in the home, such as lights, door locks, and web-enabled appliances, as Google and Amazon’s products can. It would also have the same ability to play music through built-in speakers.
Apple first hinted that it was interested in smart-home technology when it introduced HomeKit to developers in 2014, as a way of standardizing how internet-of-things devices would talk to Apple products. And at the company’s developer conference this summer, it unveiled a new app for its iOS mobile operating system, called Home. It’s essentially a consumer-facing version of the framework that it opened to developers two years ago, allowing iPhone owners to control any smart devices they have in their homes through one app, instead of having to fish around their phones for each company’s individual app.
Apple as of yet has not produced any of its own hardware to accompany the app, and as Bloomberg points out, a new device like this would be the most significant new product line that the company will have released since the Apple Watch, and arguably only the third entirely new product released under current CEO Tim Cook’s tenure, after the watch and the forthcoming AirPod wireless headphones.
Sales of Apple’s most profitable product, the iPhone, have been falling in recent quarters, as the company has struggled to reach the heights it has in years past. The Apple Watch has also seen underwhelming sales, especially when compared to the iPhone, and the company is still searching for additional revenue streams, as sales of its computers and iPads have also been stagnant. It’s unclear whether a new device like this would be the thing Apple needs to kickstart growth, but the Echo has sold better than even Amazon had expected, which could have emboldened Apple to continue pursuing this product line.
Apple released its newest iPhones and Apple Watches at event earlier this month, and is expected to announce a refresh to its computers at an event possibly in October. Given that this product is still in the prototyping phase, it seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing it at Apple’s next event, but it could well be part of what many are predicting to be a banner year for new Apple products in 2017.
The company wasn’t immediately available to comment on Bloomberg’s report.