smart-home

Are people really too stupid to figure out if a product works with their iPhone? According to a GigaOm report claiming that Apple’s first step into the Internet of Things is little more than an expansion of its “Made for iPhone” program, which allows partner companies to add a logo to products that — you guessed it — work with the company’s smartphones, the answer is “yes.”

Here’s the most salient point from GigaOm’s report, which will be proven right or wrong when Apple takes the stage in San Francisco for its annual developer conference on June 2:

The launch of partners and the expansion of the MFi program for the home doesn’t mean Apple can’t overlay software on top of all of that eventually, but my sources say that’s not happening at next week’s event. This isn’t Apple’s smart home play as much as its Apple’s attempt to get a feel for the market and help consumers carve a path through the confusing mess that connected devices for the home can be today.

It makes sense for Apple to tread carefully when it comes to the Internet of Things. Consumers haven’t yet wrapped their heads around the dizzying array of possibilities afforded by many of these products, and Apple isn’t one to jump on trends all willy-nilly. But, to return to my original question, do people really need help finding products that work with their iPhones?

Given the sheer number of Internet of Things companies building support for the product, no, they don’t. It’s not like there are startups making products that only support Windows Phone. (Sorry, Microsoft.) They’re focusing on the iPhone and, in some cases, Android smartphones. Someone could walk into Staples, don a blindfold, and grab a product off the shelves and have a better-than-even chance of grabbing something that works with an iPhone.

I was excited about Apple’s entrance into the smart home. But if GigaOm’s report proves accurate — and there’s no reason to doubt that it will — this is an almost meaningless effort. I explained why in my original post about Apple’s reported interest in the Internet of Things:

It’s about time. Few companies can match the advantages Apple brings to any connected device space. It popularized the modern smartphone with the iPhone, on which many of these products rely; it kickstarted the mobile software revolution with the App Store, which many connected platform-makers have tried to emulate; and it owns some of the busiest stores in the world, which many other Internet of Things companies could never even imagine doing.

[…]

Apple was never going to ignore all of those advantages for long. It’s no surprise that the company plans to announce an Internet of Things platform — it would have been more surprising if it hadn’t.

Color me surprised.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]