Apple introduces new smart speaker - the HomePod

Wendy Jensen
June 9, 2017

Following in Google's footsteps, Siri will also be able to translate and speak phrases from six languages, with more coming later, Apple said. HomePod responds to other questions Apple users have been asking Siri for years, such as requests for the weather.

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.

Against other smart home assistants, the HomePod's targets are different from ostensible competitors like the Amazon Echo. And as The Verge mentions, the Home Pod also has a "Musicologist" feature that "works with Apple Music to stream the music you ask the speaker's built-in Siri to play".

Apple is going to release HomePod in white and space gray colors in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia this December for $349.

The new iPad Pro will have a 10.5-inch screen, placing it between the current 9.7 and 13-inch screens of Apple's flagship tablet.

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An early glimpse at updates to iPhone and Mac software has become a tradition at Apple's annual conference for app developers, which begins Monday in San Jose, California. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers.

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Apple also said it was making its virtual assistant Siri more aware of context, enabling it to recommend and remind users more accurately based on how they use their device.

In many ways, HomePod will be able to do the same things as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, including playing back podcasts, setting reminders, checking sports scores, translation and controlling internet-connected devices. Software updates are also expected for Apple's smartwatch and TV box for streaming online video.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers. The HomePod is created to work along with Apple Music, so it essentially requires one to have a subscription to music streaming service, which will give access to over 40 million songs.

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IDC estimates that Apple shipped about 3.6 million watches during the first three months of the year. Amazon has also emphasized bringing Alexa to other devices outside of the Echo like home TVs and appliances.

But, unlike smartwatches in 2015, the smart speaker market isn't crying out for a company to swan in and make a model that lives up to the promise.

"Apple is smart to frame the HomePod as a music-centric and audio-centric device rather than just another smart speaker or another home for Siri", said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson.

But really, this is Apple's admission that it needed to kick the voice command can down the road a bit and strengthen Siri but it goes gunning for Google and Amazon.

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