Is hardware the new streaming battle ground?

Written by frtyfve Team

Apple have added fuel to the fire in the war between the digital streaming providers (DSPs). On 9th February, the tech giants launched their smart home speaker, ‘HomePod’. Released in competition with Amazon’s ‘Echo’ and Google’s ‘Home’, the development of the device has been driven by the popularity of voice assisted technology. Whilst HomePod is likely to disrupt the smart home speaker market, what impact will it have on the music streaming race?

Alike to its rivals, the Siri-enabled HomePod speaker will respond to voice commands, control your smart light bulbs and send traffic, sport and weather reports. Cute quirks aside, we care more about Apple’s claim that “HomePod is great at playing your music”.

Over 45 million songs in your home.

However, whilst the HomePod offers a seamless service when linked to Apple’s streaming service, Apple has stripped down the experience on offer when streaming via a Spotify account. Rather than efficiently quickly via Bluetooth 5.0, Spotify users must stream via AirPlay. This means that the voice-assistant will only respond to play and pause commands.

With such restrictions in place on the HomePod X Spotify user experience, Apple has forged another padlock onto the gate of its ‘walled-garden’. Once again, for the optimum experience, the hardware user has little choice but to use Apple’s software.

The release of the HomePod is a clever element to Apple’s music streaming domination strategy. With such a loyal fanbase, the company has incentivised those who use its products to sign up for its music streaming services. However, when it comes to new music discovery Spotify still reigns supreme. Its well orchestrated in-house and tastemaker curated playlist functions provide tailored music choices within clicks. Daily mixes, songwriter appreciation features and personalised music recommendations also enhance the wider Spotify experience - these are avenues which Apple has yet to tackle.

Perhaps in time Apple will alter its strategy. With the tech considered it would not be a challenge for Spotify to be integrated on the device. But as many commentators have already noted, we are still waiting for FaceTime to become an open industry standard.

Will HomePod assert Apple’s streaming dominance or fall short on its desire to be incompatible? Regardless of growth outcomes, it is clear that users continue to choose access to music rather than ownership of it. With 30,000 tracks uploaded to streaming platforms everyday and over 8,200 playlist with 10,000+ followers on Spotify alone, the playlist curators are the new gatekeepers to success for artists.  Being playlisted builds momentum, streams and discovery. The challenge for music scouts is filtering out the majority that will come to nothing and finding the emerging stars.

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