LOS ANGELES — OK, Google, and hey, Alexa. You won't have Siri to worry about in the living room for the holidays.
Apple on Friday delayed the pending release of its high-end HomePod connected speaker until 2018, saying it wasn't ready for shipment. When the company announced HomePod in June as a higher-fidelity answer to Amazon's Echo and Google Home — and its Siri personal digital assistant on board — December had been its scheduled release.
In a statement, Apple said, "We can't wait for people to experience HomePod...but we need a little more time before it's ready for our customers."
Delaying products isn't new for Apple. It also put off the release of its AirPods wireless earbuds in 2016 by two months.
Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, called Apple's decision is a "smart move," that buys the company time to get it right. "The last thing Apple wants to do is bring out a product that doesn’t work well, and have to deal with problems."
But its rivals haven't been sitting still, coming out with their own updated speakers aimed listeners who will pay up for higher quality audio.
Sonos has released a new speaker that has Amazon's Alexa built in, the $199 Sonos One. By the end of the year, Google says it is expected to release a higher-end version of the Home speaker, the Google Home Max, which at $399 would be the most expensive of the connected speakers.
The HomePod, introduced in June at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, was was priced at $350. Apple gave reporters demonstrations of the HomePod in an audio room, showing it back-to-back against rivals like an earlier Sonos and the Amazon Echo, where it bested both of them in sound quality. "It's the best sounding connected speaker we've ever heard," says Bajarin.
Google says the Max is still on schedule for a December release, though a check of the Max website Friday shows no release date slated, instead just inviting visitors to sign up for a waitlist.
Google is pushing hard to get its connected speakers to consumers for the holidays. Black Friday deals on the new Google Home Mini, which regularly sells for $49.99, are being touted by Target, Best Buy and Walmart for $29 with gift cards of $10, $10 and $25, respectively, making it one of the most affordable tech gifts of the season.
Follow USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham