New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

by Fredrick Graves June 7, 2017, 10:48

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

The move had been the focus of rumous in the run-up to the Apple event on Monday.

By setting their sights on Sonos and focusing on premium Siri-powered smart speaker technology for music lovers, Apple is once again making their product stand out in an increasingly crowded market. These giants are battling over still-emerging fields that are expected to turn into technological gold mines, much the way personal computers and smartphones became moneymaking machines in previous decades. HomePod can actually improve music quality and playback because of its spatial awareness.

It will be launched in December to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have both been really successful.

Trusted Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, has given a "more than fifty percent chance" of Apple unveiling a Siri speaker - and he was right!

The price tag isn't surprising, according to technology analysts, who said Apple has always sold its products at a higher price point because it wants to convey that its gadgets are more premium than the competition's.

Naturally, it's created to work seamlessly with Apple Music, but we'll have to wait and see whether it's quite as smart when playing with the likes of Spotify. If a song is playing, a user can ask HomePod "who's the drummer in this?" and instantly get an answer. "It will reinvent home audio", boasted Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Amazon introduced the Echo speaker, featuring its Alexa assistant, in 2015. 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 double its estimate from last year. Now, two years later, Apple has a solution - its brand new Pencil Case.

However, Apple described several enhancements to Siri that are meant to make it more aware of where you are, what you're doing, and knowing what things you care about. If that doesn't work well, the extra audio enhancements won't be enough to keep the productive competitive in what is bound to be a rapidly evolving smart speaker market. That's especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more "pervasive" way that's less dependent on smarthphones, he said. HomePod seems to be more about trying to lock its users further into the Apple Ecosystem than anything else.

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Along with upgraded versions of iPad and Mac laptops, Apple unveiled an iMac Pro work station that had the computing built in behind the screen and was touted as the most powerful computer the company has ever made.

Safari, Apple's web browser, is getting new features aimed at online annoyances. It'll arrive in the United Kingdom and Australia at the same time and, though won't be hitting the Middle East until next year.

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

These iPhones and iPads are definitely slower than their newer counterparts, but this time around the compatibility cutoff has less to do with things like RAM or raw performance. But by relegating VR to the desktop, Apple is clearly signaling that AR is its first priority.

And taking direct aim at services like those provided by PayPal Holdings, Apple also debuted peer-to-peer payments for Apple Pay in which users will be able to send money through the Messages app on iPhones.

Cook used the Apple keynote to show off new iPad and Mac computer models, as well as provide glimpses at coming versions of the software powering the technology titan's devices.

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