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LanceLetter - RIP Big HomePod; Facebook AR; Get Up; Pandemic at 1

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LanceLetter

March 15 · Issue #221 · View online

Stuff that matters.


Written while wondering why I didn’t get an Oscar nomination

RIP HomePod, Long Live HomePod mini
Four years ago, I reviewed Apple’s original HomePod. I remember loving the sound but being frustrated by the limits, like only being able to play Apple Music. Most of those limits were resolved but the public never took to Apple’s first smart speaker the way they did, say, Amazon’s much more affordable (and less conspicuous) Echo. This is how I summed it up in my original review.
Audiophiles may not be able to resist those sweet, sweet sounds, especially those who already pay for Apple Music, but for those with more average ears and smaller bank accounts, there are, for now, better, smarter smart speaker choices.
When Apple released its tiny, $99 HomePod mini, Apple proved that it could do small, smart, and affordable. It was also a signal that the time for a $300, overweight smart speaker was done. Apple officially canceled the original HomePod over the weekend, basically ceding the large smart speaker market to Google and Amazon.
To be fair, no one is selling a lot of these large smart speakers. The market is in the small, put-them-anywhere in-your homes ones.
The good news for Apple is that the mini is selling in ways the original HomePod never did. Can it catch up with Amazon and Google? Not in the short term but if Apple keeps improving Siri and its smart home automation chops (and maybe develops a $49 HomePod Micro Mini) it might have a chance.
Facebook, Zuck, AR and VR
Is the future of AR unwieldy headsets with palm-sized remote controls or is it far more subtle glasses that hide technology in plain sight?
Apple is reportedly betting on glasses that are low-key tech connected to the high-power of an iPhone. Facebook, in the meantime, is building a system, called Project Aria, that combines powerful, but normal-looking AR glasses with a wrist-based gesture control system. Who will win? No one for now as these competing AR ideas are still years away from commercialization.
Waking up
In case you missed it and are now living an hour behind most of America, Daylight Savings Time kicked off over the weekend, stealing one wonderful hour of sleep from us. That morning, I ran around changing the handful of digital but not internet-connected clocks. I wondered how many other people were doing the same. So, I ran a poll on Twitter. The results were illuminating. Those old-school clocks (mostly ovens, microwaves, and cars) stubbornly remain disconnected from the Internet (almost 7% of my respondents have at least six devices to change!). I suspect that if I ask the same question five years from now most of the responses will be “0.”
The Pandemic Year
A year ago, we were learning the intricacies of Zoom meetings and how seriously we should take social distancing. Most of us were at home, venturing out rarely (if at all) for grocery runs.
Working and learning from home is now second nature, though, if you’re like me, you probably miss the casual interactions of a busy office, that elbow in your side on a crowded train, and the weird moment when you accidentally lock eyes with someone on the street.
You probably also miss the lower half of most people’s faces. I’m not sure if people outside my immediate family still have noses, mouths, and chins. I gave a transparent mask a try but it was worse than wearing a cloth mask.
I feel as if I’ve been sitting in my home office for 12 months straight (basically, I have) and, like most, have done my best to make it feel expansive (I have three screens).
I’m also so over all of this and am desperate for some sort of normalcy. The vaccines promise some of this, but it occurs to me that there may be no going back. Some of what’s been lost might never return. The biggest cities, like New York and San Francisco, will probably come back, but not immediately. Our work, travel, and social interaction habits might never return to pre-pandemic style. Will we ever hug or peck strangers, let alone causal acquaintances, again?
Is shaking hands dead?
Will I travel to convention halls to jostle with thousands of other people from around the world? Should any conference ever be held near or during flu season again (looking at you, CES)?
As desperate as I am for the normal, I’m realizing that there can be no normal after a pandemic that killed almost 600M people. The best we can hope for is relief and gratitude that we made it. After that, we all must work to support one another and prepare for the inevitable next pandemic.
Stay well
Get vaccinated when you can!
See you soon
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