New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Posted June 08, 2017

Apple is finally getting into the smart home speaker business with the HomePod, its rival to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which have driven popularity for their Siri alternatives. The Apple HomePod is a smart speaker that features integration with Apple Music and Siri.

"HomePod packs powerful speaker technology, Siri intelligence and wireless access to the entire Apple Music library into a lovely speaker that is less than 7 inches tall, can rock most any room with distortion free music and be a helpful assistant around your home".

Three years after Amazon launched the Echo and six months after Google (GOOG, GOOGL) launched its $109 Home, this is Apple's first entry to the category. It will work closely with your Apple Music subscription, and will have access to your playlists and a vast 40 million music library, to pull in more recommendations based on listening preferences. It features spatial awareness which enables it to sense its surroundings and adjust the audio automatically.

However, Apple may soon change this with expected plans to pair Siri with a wider range of apps, according to Reuters. And with Apple's HomeKit, Apple's proprietary wireless protocol for controlling third-party smart home gadgets in iOS, HomePod serves as a hub that can control connected lights and thermostats. It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014.

"As the iPhone reaches a point of near saturation in mature markets and replacement rates continue to slow, Apple must find new ways to lock in users". If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015.

Speaking at the WWDC conference, Apple's marketing SVP Phil Schiller boldly said, "This is a chance to reinvent music". In fact, Sonos' line of multiroom speakers is so sleek and functional that many suggested in the past that the company might be an acquisition target for Apple.

One announcement generating a lot of buzz is Apple's new HomePod. Apple says that it upgraded the artificial intelligence capacity of Siri and furnished the HomePod with extra features to enhance the interactive experience.

The speaker will be priced at $349, which is much more than the Amazon Echos and Google Homes of the world cost.

Apple says the A8 processor chip - the one used in the iPhone - means HomePod will be the "smartest home speaker" on offer. Apple also announced a new macOS dubbed "High Sierra" that should please Mac users on both the professional and consumer side.

Apple also highlighted the security of HomePod.

It also debuted the iMac Pro, created to be its flagship desktop machine.