Apple Announces HomePod, its Answer to Alexa and Google Home

by Linda Olson June 6, 2017, 5:31

As a reminder, there's a huge woofer and seven tweeters inside, all meant to make audio sound as vivid as possible no matter where you are in a room.

This comes as Google and Amazon have made headways in assisting users based on knowledge of past routines.

Chief executive Tim Cook, referencing the company's iTunes service and iPod, said: "Just like portable music, we would like to reinvent home music". Apple's been lagging behind in terms of professional-quality hardware in recent years, with its last high-performance desktop model, the MacPro, landing with a thud back in 2013.

Amazon is already available on rival devices such as Roku and, of course, Amazon's Fire TV.

Apple appears poised to unveil a voice-activated, internet-connected speaker that would create a new digital pipeline into people's homes. According to Apple, the smart speaker will only start collecting information after the "Hey Siri" voice command is activated. It would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google.

The device was previewed on stage Monday at WWDC, Apple's annual developer conference in San Jose.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in nearly three years. HomePod is also slightly more expensive than both the Amazon Echo and Google Home, retailing at $349.

Apple Inc on Monday introduced the HomePod, a voice-controlled speaker that can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures, taking aim at Amazon.com Inc's Alexa feature and Echo devices.

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It starts shipping later this year in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. Apple says "the HomePod provides deep knowledge of personal music preferences and tastes and helps users discover new music".

Amazon just unveiled a version of Echo with a camera, touch-screen display and video-calling capabilities. Microsoft also has announced its own speaker with Samsung's Harman business; it will use Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant.

Although it was first smartphone maker to come out with a digital assistant when Siri debuted in 2011, it hasn't had a stand-alone assistant.

It wouldn't be the first time that Apple hopped on the bandwagon of a technology product popularized by a competitor. Apple has Siri baked into it, which explains why everyone was calling it the Apple Siri Speaker ahead of today's launch event. "It's the biggest brains ever in a speaker", said Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

For regular folks who don't need a computer that can handle artificial intelligence research, the iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro have all been brought up to date with new Intel Kaby Lake processors.

Anonymous sources told Bloomberg that the device will be deeply tied into Apple's ecosystem, presumably via integrations with Apple's other hardware devices, as well as apps and services like Apple Music, Apple HomeKit and Apple TV.

Apple is introducing an iPad Pro in a new size in an attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets.


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