Last week, at this year’s World Wide Developer Conference, Apple announced a number of software updates. Arguably the most significant of these – certainly for connected entertainment and the connected home – was its iOS 8 HomeKit software framework, which should allow a user to control all their smart home connected devices through Apple’s Siri. In order to better understand the wider implications for this announcement, both for vendors and consumers, IP&TV News spoke to Nick Dillon, Senior Analyst, Devices & Platforms, Ovum…
“So they haven’t released all the details yet,” explained Dillon, “and the devil is often in the details, but I think what they’re essentially trying to do with HomeKit is provide a standard interface with connected home devices, to integrate them all and to provide a standard developer interface and user interface and to provide a unified experience.”
We asked what the implications might be for vendors…
“It depends who you are really. For the smaller vendors, the more niche players in the connected home, who do a specialist product or something like that, it potentially has some benefits I think: it validates the connected home, convincing people that the connected home exists and that there’s some value for consumers.”
Indeed, Dillon suggested that, in terms of drawing attention to the connected home, Apple’s efforts could prove very influential, complimenting the impression Google made through buying Nest. There are also, however, downsides too, namely the risk that these smaller vendors could “lose control of the customer.”
“If they end up just providing the hardware essentially and then Apple does all the value-adding bit of providing the user experience, and kind of hiding away the actual vendors’ products, then it relegates these vendors to a hardware provider role, which isn’t really where the value is. There’s a lot of vendors trying to build up applications and services around the hardware – the hardware is a relatively simple piece of kit, it’s actually what you can do with it, in terms of the applications and devices but also the additional services that go on top of that, so there’s a risk that Apple steps in and fulfils that role for them.”
For larger vendors, meanwhile, it comes down to a straightforward matter of competition.
“You have companies like Samsung who are trying to make essentially a very similar thing in the connected home but trying to do even more with it, as in they’re not just trying to provide the user interface and application and a service, they’re also building all the devices as well, an end to end system. So for companies like that, I guess, they’ll be trying to convince customers of the value of using their systems and their applications in their ecosystem whereas Apple will eventually create a separate one.”
Ultimately, Dillon insisted that the effect should provide no less than a “turbo boost” for the connected home market, while other players within that market will worry about ceding too much control to Apple. For the consumer, however, the announcement is less complexly positive.
“I guess if you look at how the market is currently – one of the defining features is a huge amount of fragmentation. Very little of these devices connect to each other or inter-operate. If you have devices from a few different vendors it means having a separate application for each of them on your iPhone in order to control them, which isn’t an ideal experience. So what HomeKit should do in theory is work in the background, integrate all of those and provide a single interface to the user, which should at least in theory create a better experience, if they just have to go to one place to control all that stuff rather than have to have this fragmented experience. So, as long as vendors get on board then it could lead to a better interface. The potential downside is that they may have to buy into Apple’s certified kit so they might be limited, as opposed to an open standard. But the idea of an open standard getting written is a few years off, so in the meantime this is as good a solution as any.