Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference

Todd Singleton
June 8, 2017

The company is casting Siri as a music connoisseur that will learn and cater to the tastes of the HomePod's owners, as well as answer questions about the songs as they are played.

Apple says its looking to "reinvent" the way we listen to music in the home.

HomePod wants to be the best of both worlds, without being that much more expensive than some of its key competitors: The Apple-made speaker will cost consumers $349, and ship in December in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google's Home speaker goes for $130.

The extensive range of updates are all due for release later this year.

In the report titled "Apple's Famed Audio Director, Inventor of Lucasfilm THX Sound System, Invents Next-Gen Audio System" we noted that Apple claimed that their new audio system could be for a room within a house and right on through to an amphitheater. Although that product came out after other smartwatches hit the market, it quickly outshone competitors, according to industry research firms. During Jobs' last decade, Apple introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad — all huge commercial successes that both reshaped daily life and swamped previous digital music players, smartphones and tablets.

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said the next Mac operating system will be named "High Sierra" in tribute to the California mountain range. The speaker is similar to cheaper devices from Amazon and Google. 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.

Following in Google's footsteps, Siri will also be able to translate and speak phrases from six languages, with more coming later, Apple said. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality "experiences".

Apple had plenty of other announcements.

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The tech giant announced the updated iMacs would have new, faster processors as well as "43% brighter" displays. Another Safari feature will stop video from automatically playing on websites. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

And if you're a tablet kind of person, besides seemingly being in an exclusive company these days, Apple is trying to hold your attention or wallet with the new iPad Pro.

Cook and other Apple executives showed off several additional new Siri functions, highlighting how the company has been working to catch up with similar offerings from Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. It can now predict what news stories you might want to read, and can respond to a text message asking "Where are you?" with an estimation of when you will arrive at a given location.

Apple also offered some hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, including so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images.

Taking direct aim at services like those provided by PayPal Holdings Inc, 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.

Siri is what will ultimately make or break Apple's future, according to ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. iPhone and iPad sales are on the downturn, and Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are outpacing the company when it comes to hardware innovation and new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

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