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Apple pulls massive HomeKit chip U-turn to keep up with Amazon Echo and Google Home
Blink and you'd have missed surprise news
Work still to be done
Asked how come Apple insisted for two years that the only way to connect to HomeKit was through specific hardware, and now suddenly software authentication was possible, we were told by the tech giant:
"At the time, we didn't have a way to do that. Then we came up with a way to do it."
And while engineers have been given the instruction to make it happen, and have likely figured out the mechanics of how to do it, the fact is that the actual implementation is still under wraps – strongly suggesting that the order went out and there is still plenty of work to be done.
As we have repeatedly noted, the decision to insist that third parties incorporate a special chipset just to be allowed to work within its eco-system is pure Apple arrogance.
It's the same arrogance that has caused the company to have to repeatedly redraw its plans for music streaming and news articles. Every time Apple decides to enter a market, it persuades itself that everyone is so desperate to access its installed base that they will do whatever it takes – including handing over control and profits.
On occasion – like with the original iTunes setup and the iOS app market – that approach worked. But for the most part, it has failed. And Apple continues to delude itself that it has learned from those mistakes – largely by making changes and pretending that it made them on its own terms. It is a holdover from Steve Jobs' mindset – where Intel was the enemy right up to the point where it wasn't.
In this case, it is very hard for Apple to deal with the cognitive dissonance of having insisted for years that hardware authentication was the only way to be safe and secure in HomeKit – and then turn around and say the exact opposite when the market shuns it.
That's why software authentication is being held out as an "alternate" mechanism for connecting to HomeKit, even though there is no additional benefit and some additional cost to going the hardware route. Apple just can't bear to admit it was wrong.
And so it's not going to. It just hopes that everyone will slowly learn that the biggest hurdle to HomeKit adoption has been quietly removed. Rule number one: never embarrass Apple.
Take it to the bridge
What about Belkin and its Wemo Bridge, which was announced just before the decision to allow software authentication?
The company told us: "We still plan to release the Wemo Bridge product as planned, providing HomeKit compatibility to millions of currently installed Wemo products on the market."
But, it notes: "We intend to introduce native support for HomeKit in newer Wemo products, including those introduced over the last year, as soon as it is possible to do so."
So there you have it. Apple fanbois are no doubt already frothing at the mouth, ready to yell "but no one cares!" And they're right – people won't. If Apple can allow smart home manufacturers to connect their products to HomeKit using just software, everyone benefits.
It means greater interoperability, and that means consumers have less of a lock‑in to one company's system. Competition wins. And Apple's efforts to control everyone and everything have, thankfully, failed again. ®
PS: Apple is reportedly thinking about putting SIM cards and Intel radio modems into its future smartwatches.