Apple unveils 'HomePod' speaker, first new product in years

Posted June 06, 2017

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

The HomePod will be powerful on the inside, too, with a custom A8 chip, just like on an iPhone.

New indoor maps of areas like malls and airports indicated that Apple might be laying groundwork to display information over images of those places in the future.

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.

Amazon essentially created the smart home speaker category with its introduction of the Alexa-powered Echo in November 2014, and the category has grown rapidly since.

Besides the HomePod, Apple unveiled a raft of new and upgraded products, including a new computer in the shape of the $4,999 iMac Pro. The $349 price tag is a bit more expensive than comparably-sized internet-connected speakers, almost double the price of the Amazon Echo, and more than double the Google Home.

The $349 device - shipping in December for the USA, United Kingdom and Australia - stands at seven inches tall, is wrapped in mesh fabric and comes packed with the same dual-core A8 chip used in the iPhone 6, giving it the "biggest brain ever in a speaker", according to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller.

Apple also may introduce its next Mac computer, along with the next operating system powering the machine. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality "experiences".

Although Apple has not confirmed whether it's going to launch a speaker, industry analysts think WWDC could be where the company will announce its Echo-style, Siri-powered speaker, which will be used to announce new music support for Siri. Software updates are also expected for Apple's smartwatch and TV box for streaming online video. "A smart speaker utilizing an underachieving voice assistant could dampen interest in the product".

The HomePod's looks seem to emphasize its functionality as a speaker first, and an intelligent assistant second. In the United States it will cost $US349 ($466), more than twice the price of its Google competitor. Accented by a snazzy ring of blue light around the top, the Echo looks sleek and professional and would be at home in either an office or a bedroom. There's also a 12.9in version that starts at $799. In fact, Apple is suggesting you're getting a big discount. The base is also available in different colours and materials, so you'll be able to customise it depending on your interior decorating tastes. However, rumours have indicated that at some point, Apple will be unveiling a dedicated hardware unit in the style of Amazon Echo and Google Home.

Apple just revealed what it's been up to in software for the past year.and it's remarkably Googley.

What form this hardware will take, if it exists at all, is still unknown.