Compared to the likes of Amazon and the Google-owned Nest, Apple’s first steps in embracing the smart home have been relatively small. In terms of dedicated hardware, there’s just the HomePod mini and original HomePod — the latter of which has already been discontinued.
But according to Bloomberg’s well-connected reporter Mark Gurman in his latest Power On newsletter (opens in new tab), Apple has plans to take a shortcut in the race to dominate the smart home. It’s reportedly working on an iPad speaker dock that would transform the world’s most popular tablet into a smart screen, and it could arrive as early as 2023.
“The move would mark one of Apple’s most significant pushes into smart-home devices, expanding on its still small foothold in set-top boxes and speakers,” Gurman writes. “It already offers the Apple TV and HomePod, but nothing that rivals the Echo Show from Amazon.com Inc. or Google’s latest efforts.”
A familiar idea
Speaking of those two rivals, long-term followers of smart home tech will know that this idea isn’t exactly new. Amazon has experimented with a Show Mode charging dock for its Fire tablets which turns them into portable Echo Shows, and Google has revealed it’s doing something similar with the upcoming Pixel Tablet (a feature that was met with a lot of cheering from the audience at their launch event recently).
But Apple has a significant advantage over both of them: the iPad is by far the most popular tablet around, with a market share that hovers around the 55% mark (opens in new tab).
That’s a far larger base to work with and something that could potentially make this work better than it has for Amazon — assuming Apple doesn’t limit compatibility to the latest models. Doing so would be a mistake for two reasons: not only would it lock out the majority of iPad owners, but you’d imagine people with an older, slower tablet would love to give it a new lease of life as a smart screen.
This isn’t the only smart home device Apple is working on, according to Gurman. In the newsletter, he reiterates his belief that HomePod 2 is on the way, as well as repeating his expectation that the company will launch a combined Apple TV and smart-speaker device with a camera for FaceTime.
“Until those are ready, though, the 12-year-old iPad could be the company’s best bet in making some noise in the smart-home space,” he concludes.