Apple debuts HomePod speaker to bring Siri into the living room

Posted June 08, 2017

Apple is also targeting Sonos as a competitor, which is a sign that the HomePod's audio quality will be better than what we've seen from Amazon and Google. Siri will be limited to specific categories that Apple thinks make sense for the HomePod - weather, reminders, unit conversions, and so on - which means you aren't going to be ordering a pizza, hailing a cab, or making a dinner reservation all by voice.

Apple announced a $349, Siri-powered speaker, leveraging its expertise in music against rivals Amazon and Google.

So should Amazon and Google be anxious by Apple's new gadget?

The new Pro will be available in two variants, a 10.5inch and 12.9inch model.

Under the hood of this device is an Apple A8 chip, processing information on a level above and beyond that of any other "smart" speaker. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it's not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices.

By focusing on music and paying lip service to other home assistant functionality, Apple is delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) but cleverly selling it as a great experience in a realm it claims to own. Apple plans to ship it in December-first to customers in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. The new speaker establishes a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into these services. Spending on smart home related hardware, services and installation fees will reach US$155 billion by 2022, up from nearly US$90 billion this year, with devices accounting for about half of that, the consulting firm also estimates.

Microsoft and Harman Kardon, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, are slated to release a voice-enabled speaker that plays music and handles everyday lifestyle tasks like managing calendars and checking for traffic this fall.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer.

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There, Apple shares the lead with Chinese company Xiaomi, whose fitness tracking wristbands are mostly sold in China.

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities.

But at US$349 (S$480) in the US, the HomePod is almost twice as expensive as the Echo (US$179.99) and three times the price of the Google Home (US$109). Last year's confab saw Siri opened up to third-party developers for the first time. HomePod features a large, Apple-designed woofer for deep, clean bass, a custom array of seven beam-forming tweeters that provide pure high frequency acoustics with incredible directional control and powerful technologies built right in to preserve the richness and intent of the original recordings.

The Siri watch face uses machine learning and goes on to determine the information most useful to the user of the watch.

Besides playing music, HomePod will help people to manage their lives and homes.

Using the wake command "Hey Siri", the much-rumoured device can play music as well as answer queries and control other smart home appliances.

The lack of a breakthrough device has periodically raised concerns that Apple has become too dependent on the iPhone and supported the theory that the company lost its knack for innovation when its co-founder Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011. Apple is directly taking on the crowd-favourite Venmo and Square Cash. iOS 11 also introduces an Apple Pay Cash Card, where all your money will be stored.