At WWDC 2019, Apple needs to get serious about HomeKit

Cupertino can't afford to cede much more ground to rivals

It's time Apple gets serious about HomeKit
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Last week was an uncharacteristically busy one for HomeKit. Support for Apple’s platform hit three different products including C by GE bulbs, the Flic 2 hub, and a new Tado AC controller. The week before that, Ring self-certified for HomeKit, giving users hope it may eventually gain compatibility.

You'd think that HomeKit was finally picking up momentum, right? In reality a lot of this is the result of a change Apple made two years ago, whereby it moved from forcing manufacturers to put a literal HomeKit chip inside their devices, to a much more reasonable software authentication.

Read this: The best Apple HomeKit devices

And while there might be more HomeKit chatter than is usual, it’s still trailing behind rivals at a pace so sluggish it's enough to make you wonder how much Apple really cares about the smart home race at all. That C by E integration? It took three years to happen. Three! That's more than half HomeKit's lifetime.

But as the optimism cycle goes, we’ll be eagerly hanging off every last word at Apple’s WWDC conference next week, hoping someone, anyone, mentions HomeKit. Even a word that rhymes with HomeKit. We'll take what we can get. And if, again, it doesn't happen, we'll say what we'll always say: “Maybe at Apple’s September iPhone event." Then when that moment arrives and leaves: “Well, it is a hardware event. Maybe WWDC next year?” Ad infinitum.

If it wants a dog in this race, it's time to step up and show it means business

This isn't to say HomeKit has been ignored completely; there's usually at least one developer session during the week – there's one pencilled in for next week – but HomeKit's share of stage time since it arrived in 2014 has been shamefully low. And it's the keynote, not the developer sessions, that everyone is watching.

Why would you commit to HomeKit when Apple itself still treats it like a hobby? The company has got away with little investment to date, but if it wants a dog in this race, it's time to step up and show it means business, before it cedes too much ground to Google, Amazon and others.

At WWDC 2019, Apple needs to get serious about HomeKit

A Bloomberg story from earlier this month claims there will be some movements at WWDC. It reports Apple will unveil an “upgraded” Home app, which will be better integrated with security cameras and give users the ability to view past recordings. A HomePod multi-user mode is also mentioned. But that’s all we know of so far, and there’s by no means a guarantee this will happen.

Yet there's so much more we'd love to see: better automations, integrated shortcuts; smarter, more dynamic scenes. That's to name just a few. The HomePod will be many people's gateway to HomeKit, and Apple arguably needs to make even more improvements there. Other than music quality, there's little else separating it from Amazon and Google, and even those two are gradually closing the gap on that advantage.

And in the year that Apple TV is having such a moment, it would be an opportune moment to better integrate TV into the Home app. How about a Home app for the Apple TV already? What about including Apple TV in automations? Let's not forget that HomeKit is coming to third-party TVs this year too.

HomeKit turns five years old this year, and I'm sure there are already some unflattering anniversary celebratory pieces formed in many writers' heads. I know I have one. Here's hoping WWDC puts paid to these fears, and see Apple getting serious about the home. Even if it's taken nearly five years to happen.

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