Apple's HomePod speaker pumps up the volume on tech rivals

Posted June 08, 2017

Apple's John Ternus speaks during an announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017.

Apple might have been first to market with a digital assistant on the phone, but Siri has been surpassed by Amazon and Google.

But it's also possible that the HomePod could expose Siri as less capable than Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana, Blaber said. Users will also be available to control smart home products such as connected lighting by speaking to Siri through the HomePod. Amazon, for example, sold more than 11 million Echo devices from mid-2015 to December 1, 2016, according to estimates from Morgan Stanley analysts, who calculated statistics from before the latest holiday season. Apple was nearly sheepish in mentioning that, yes, Siri on the HomePod can do most of the usual Siri things like make appointments, find sports scores, and send messages.

HomePod is created to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to over 40 million songs; it provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music. It will be available in the retail market in December. It comes in white and space gray.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones. You could play out that same scenario for a wide variety of music services, including Spotify Amazon's own music service.

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing said, "Apple reinvented portable music with iPod and now HomePod will reinvent how we enjoy music wirelessly throughout our homes".

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As a music-playing device, it will also be a challenger to Sonos, whose wifi-controlled speakers are used by many smartphone users for home entertainment.

A notable omission from Apple TV units in recent years, Apple has confirmed the popular streaming service is finally heading towards its set-top box.

Although Siri would likely be a centerpiece of a smart speaker from Apple, Moorhead said the device's design, colors and acoustics will also likely be focal points because the company has a long history of making elegantly designed products. They simply use voice recognition to understand the query and respond to them by fetching information or data from the internet or connected local devices.

"We want powerful machine learning to be easier to use in your apps", software chief Craig Federighi said as he unveiled a toolkit that allows developers to use Apple's AI technology. In the case of HomePod, which features a six-microphone array - compared to the Echo's seven microphones and Google Home's two -Apple said the device can pick up the commands from across the room.

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.