New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Posted June 08, 2017

HomePod marks Apple's attempt to put a stake in the smart-home assistant hardware market, an area now dominated by Amazon's growing array of Alexa-running devices, like its Echo speaker, and Google's Home gadget, which runs Google Assistant.

The company is expected to unveil a voice-activated, internet-connected speaker that would create a new digital pipeline into people's homes.

Apple's much-anticipated Siri-powered "smart speaker" broke cover overnight at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose. Not surprisingly, there's integration with the Apple Music online subscription.

"You can be across the room and speak to the HomePod even while loud music is playing", Apple's Phil Schiller said during the introduction presentation. Amazon's (AMZN) record-breaking Echo speaker, which it can't make fast enough, and Google's (GOOGL) Home speaker were top dogs in a new category. HomePod combines Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software to deliver the highest-fidelity sound throughout the room, no matter where it's placed.

HomePod comes three years after Amazon launched the Echo and six months after Google launched its Home. The research firm eMarketer says 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. "Internally, the HomePod features an array of 7 beam-forming tweeters at the bottom, coupled with an Apple-Designed 4" upward-facing woofer.

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Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

The "HomePod" speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years. Daryanani said Apple may also announce an iPad Pro with a faster processor in an attempt to revive its long-slumping tablet sales.

Apple revealed several other new versions of existing software and hardware at the conference in California, including fresh versions of their iMac and MacBook computers. It can play music from Apple Music, tell you the news, do unit conversions, send messages, schedule reminders, set timers, translate, check stocks, answer trivia questions, and tell you what the traffic is like.

"The fact that Apple is claiming to marry really great and smart audio with a smart assistant and cloud music service makes this device unique in the market".