Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

After Smart Watch, Apple introduces smart compact music speaker


The speaker, while expected by some industry watchers, marked Apple's first new product announcement since the Apple Watch in September 2014.

Apple has announced the HomePod, a wireless speaker for the home that delivers quality audio and uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio. It will allow users to talk to Siri, Apple's digital assistant, while at home and costs US$349 - nearly double the price of most competing products.

Apple's Siri assistant will be integrated into the $349 speaker, and can make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores and control compatible home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats. Like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the HomePod will play music while also helping people to manage their lives and homes. The Amazon Echo, with its signature Alexa assistant, is still the undisputed market leader in terms of compatibility with smart home brands.

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The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released a year ago, were the first entrants in a promising market. But of course, it has Apple branding, so that's an early sign of its success. "It can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others as access to content, information and search becomes pervasive and less dependent on the smartphone". As it's powered by Siri, it is still possible to have random questions answered. (Many reviewers have suggested that the current incarnation of Apple's assistant already trails competitors in key respects.) "This is the start of the AI wars", he said. Back in 2015, Amazon went as far as to stop selling the Apple TV, along with several other streaming devices, citing the reason that their Amazon Prime Video wasn't available on the platform, which would ultimately confuse consumers. New iMacs released Monday are getting better displays and graphics capabilities.

Next up was Apple's new version of macOS called High Sierra, which was launched with new Safari browser.

Mac models were also boosted to work with virtual reality gear, a move by Apple into technology that Facebook has embraced with its Oculus unit.

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Siri now also has a male American voice, and is said to be more expressive due to a new visual interface. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops. Apple also laid some groundwork for augmented reality, the projection of digital features onto real-world surroundings, by giving app developers tools for incorporating AR into their products.

Elsewhere at the 2017 WWDC in San Jose, California, Apple confirmed a range of new operating systems for its devices.

Ortutay reported from NY.

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