In June, Apple announced that it was challenging Amazon's sleeper hit Amazon Echo with its own voice assistant-enabled speaker, called HomePod, and said the product would be released in December 2017. Today, the company released a statement that the speaker will be delayed until 2018: "We can't wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple's breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers. We'll start shipping in the US, UK, and Australia in early 2018."
The delay is major setback for Apple's smart speaker, which joins an already competitive space. Both Amazon, Google, and premium Internet-connected audio company Sonos have new AI-enabled audio offerings available in time for the holiday season. Earlier this year, Amazon said it sold "millions of Alexa devices" over the gift-giving period.
Apple's AirPods wireless earbuds were also postponed several months last year, though the headset did eventually ship before Christmas.
HomePod was originally touted as primarily a high-quality speaker that could detects its location in a room and automatically adjust its output to optimize sound based on where it is. The HomePod's focus on music and audio quality is how Apple hopes differentiate its speaker from competitors like Amazon Echo and Google Home, both of which emphasize the intelligence of its voice-enabled assistants. Its most direct competitor is the Sonos One, which has Amazon's Alexa assistant on board. Apple Music is the only streaming service that will work with the $349 speaker at launch.