Apple Joins Smart-Speaker Race With Music-Focused 'HomePod'

Alicia Cross
June 9, 2017

Here's everything Apple unveiled at WWDC 2017.

The next version of iOS, which powers the iPhone and iPad, as well as desktop software macOS and the Apple Watch's watchOS were also updated at the firm's annual developer conference, WWDC.

That's probably not a surprise considering the way Apple talked about it on-stage - Phil Schiller referred to the machine more as a "breakthrough home speaker" rather than the avatar of a virtual assistant. But while Siri improved incrementally, it was overtaken by rivals such as Google's Assistant, and faces competition from Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana too.

"It's so cool, we really believe it is going to take your home music experience to the next level", said Apple CEO Tim Cook. It was Apple that started the entire virtual digital assistant craze with the Siri on iPhone, many years ago.

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Using the wake command "Hey Siri", the much-rumoured device can play music as well as answer queries and control other smart home appliances. Available only at the end of this year, the Homepod will retail at $349. It is also powered by the Cupertino giant's A8 chip and is said to be available in the market in select regions including Australia, the U.S., and the United Kingdom in two color options - White and Space Grey.

However, Erickson described the price point as "aspirational" given that consumer expectations have been set by cheaper competitors. The more powerful iMac is meant to address concerns of creative professionals who had been limited to much less powerful iMacs or the much-loved Mac Pro, which hasn't been updated since 2013. All thanks to Apple's new AirPlay 2. The device will start at $649 and start shipping next week.

HomePod users may initially be constrained by Siri's lack of capabilities as compared to Alexa, which also boasts the ability to order millions of Amazon products as well as food from restaurants like Domino's. And Apple is also getting its say in the matter. It also introduced autoplay blocking, which stops music and video from playing automatically without your permission on websites as well as "intelligent tracking prevention", which stops ads from following you around the web.

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