Apple Delays HomeKit Launch
Apple fans hoping for an imminent release of the company’s home automation platform, HomeKit, will have to wait. Sources participating in the program tell Fortune that the launch date has moved back from an anticipated May or June time-frame to something closer to late August or September.
To be clear, Apple has never announced a launch date for HomeKit, but partners had said during this year’s CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show, to expect something in spring. One partner had told Re/code to expect products in time for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
That has changed. Sources close to the situation say is planning a smaller announcement around HomeKit in the near term, but not the official launch. Apparently, making it easy to sign in and get your devices (door locks, light blubs, et cetera) online is much harder to do than Apple anticipated. One source says the code base associated with that part of the process “blew up” and required way too much memory for smaller, battery-powered devices, so Apple is trying to shrink the code back down to size.
Apple announced the HomeKit platform almost a year ago at its Worldwide Developer Conference to much fanfare but with relatively little information. In fact, most of what we know comes from from leaks. For now, the basic information is that Apple is building out a platform that will let consumers control HomeKit-compliant products using Siri, its speech-recognizing assistant, or the notification screens of their phones, tablets, and watches.
At CES in January, electronics companies showed off plugs, light bulbs, and other gadgets that turned on with a quick tap on the iPhone notification screen. A consumer can also create “scenes” that combined several products together and let an individual control a group of lights or a group of products with a single tap. A good example of this might be an “away scene” that could lock your door and turn off your lights as you leave the house. Other products on the market offer similar functionality, but setting them up can require a more time-intensive process of buying different devices, making sure they work together with the hub you’ve chosen, and then programming it all.
Apple’s HomeKit promised to make the set-up process as easy as plugging in the device and putting it on the same Wi-Fi network as your phone. The user would still have to set up scenes but, again, the Apple UI expertise would presumably make that experience a joy as opposed to a test of human patience. (As someone who has installed more than half a dozen home hubs and owns an Android phone, even I was looking forward to what Apple would do.)
But it looks like consumers will have to keep waiting.
HomeKit-certified products will rely on the Made for iPhone/iPad program to meet the security and standards associated with getting on the network. Vendors hoping to sell HomeKit products must apply for the program and use certified hardware in their products.
Recently, a bit of information trickled out as to how HomeKit plans to handle Bluetooth, the wireless protocol, which is important for the makers of light bulbs and smart locks (such as Apple HomeKit partner August). When Broadcom recently launched new software for its silicon, it said: “HomeKit devices will be able to bridge from a non-WiFi device such as a Bluetooth Smart light bulb to connect to a smart plug containing Broadcom’s software module, creating a bridge from the light bulb to the user’s HomeKit-supported app on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.”
Another question Apple has yet to publicly address: What role Apple TV will play in the HomeKit ecosystem. If the phone or tablet is the brains of the “smart” home, your home will become “dumb” once the owner leaves—bad news for any scheduled events or security monitoring.
At its developers conference next month, Apple is expected to address this with what observers believe will be an Apple TV refresh. But as for a proper launch of the HomeKit system and related devices? Instead of planning for a summer project, consumers should hope for a back-to-school launch instead.
Apple did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment.