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Apple Echo

Mark Gurman and Ian King on Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant, according to people familiar with the matter.

Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects. Like Amazon Inc.’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said. Apple hasn’t finalized plans for the device and could still scrap the project.

As a fan of Apple products and Apple the company, it is frustrating to continue to see them lose focus. I know it’s easy to say, “this would never have happened if Steve were alive” and if and when I say that, I don’t say it lightly. And I’m not ready to say that now, actually. But I will say it is improbable that this would be a direction the company would have gone under Steve. The reason I say that is because one of Steve’s ideals—one of the things he championed—was razor sharp focus. Focus is about saying no.

Saying no means saying no to things you know you can do well but just don’t fit. A big part of saying no is also knowing what you are not good at. Apple is not good at voice recognition and voice dictation. Apple is not good at services. The argument can be made—and I would in fact make it—that Apple needs to get much, much more adept at services and Siri type functionality. The thing is, when I speak to Siri, she only gets it right about 95% of the time. You may think that’s a lot, but trust me, it’s not. Not when I can open any of Google’s apps and it gets it right every time. I’m not even joking. And I hear the Echo is the same way.

So here’s my beef: Apple should focus on making what they have great. Bringing another device to the market when they’re struggling in so many other areas to catch up strikes me as a really bad idea.

Apple needs to start saying no again. Don’t make a car. Don’t power my home. Don’t make some sort of social networking thing. Make the best phones, tablets, and computers. Period.