Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

Posted June 06, 2017

Apple has rolled out new Siri capabilities to better integrate the voice-activated assistant across devices, in the face of stiff competition from rival offerings like Google's helper and Amazon's Alexa. If that doesn't happen before the speaker launches later this year, however, the two colors Apple has picked are at least subtle and non-offending.

McIlwain said he expects Apple to add new categories at next week's bash, but not almost enough to match Alexa's number of skills.

The HomePod is Apple's first new gadget in almost three years, following its announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014.

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"There is so much momentum building around these speakers that it would be hard for Apple not to come out with one", said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy. Apple Music serves up the 40 million songs - probably an incentive for you to become one of the more than 27 million subscribers and counting. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130. A preview of a new high-powered iMac Pro desktop, due to be released later this year, was also teased.

After some setup, Alexa can order a pizza from Domino's, while Siri cannot get a pie because food delivery is not - so far - one of the categories of apps that Apple has opened up to Siri.

Smart home speakers and assistants are a seriously hot topic this year, with Google and Apple jumping on the bandwagon via the Google Home and Siri-powered speaker.

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The updates played a central role at the start of Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, a gathering of 5,300 developers who create the apps central to the iPhone and other devices. The Siri digital assistant has been updated to understand more spoken requests focused on music, he also explained.

But while Amazon and Google have stressed the daily practicalities of the artificial intelligence assistants that run Echo and Home, Apple framed HomePod more as a music-listening platform, with practicalities like reminders and calendar nearly an after thought. But Apple occasionally also uses the event to introduce new devices and services and upgrades to existing products.

Christened the Apple HomePod, the squat but stylish device will take on not only early leaders Google and Amazon in the voice-controlled speaker market but Sonos for high-quality multi-room audio.

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The technology giant also announced a new software kit for developers called ARKit, which will enabled app developers to build augmented reality apps on Apple's platforms more easily. Amazon increasingly will come under pressure from the likes of Google, Samsung and others that also are looking to develop their presence in the home.