New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Audrey Hill
June 6, 2017

Apple "can't afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people's homes to Amazon, Google and others", said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight.

Rumors about an Apple smart speaker have been circulating for months, and today the company finally revealed HomePod, a Siri-powered speaker that is set to release in December. It's a voice-controlled speaker that can make music suggestions and adjust home temperatures. And while no voice A.I. service is a true standout yet, Apple is considered a laggard behind Amazon's and Google's A.I. assistant efforts. Additionally, Siri will be able to chime in by answering follow-up questions, and offer multiple results to queries. Even in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia, that would appear to be later than would be ideal to catch the important holiday season.

Amazon introduced the Echo speaker, featuring its Alexa assistant, in 2015. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the US are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year. Google and Amazon's comparable offerings will make that tricky. We know Siri is getting some more elegant voices, but we'll have to see if how it makes the leap into this new body before rendering a final verdict. Not only is the wireless speaker created to take on the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home, it also seems to be going after the likes of Sonos when it comes to audio quality.

Apple's narrower focus, however, could become a problem, said Matt McIlwain, a venture capitalist with Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group.

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But as usual, Apple has remained mum on what it will announce. The device has a better display, is faster, and comes with 64GB of memory.

The latest version of Apple's Safari browser will be able to stop automatically playing videos as well as online trackers used for advertisers. It will not block the ads themselves, though. The centerpiece unveiling at Monday's WWDC keynote presentation, the Home Pod is a predictably good looking and well designed device, and Apple CEO Tim Cook says, for one thing, the sound quality for music is going to blow everyone away. It's part of Apple's effort to entice professionals with tablets that can handle many tasks previously reserved for laptops.

Other features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages syncing in the cloud. Developers will keep an eye out for hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, such as so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it will ask if you want to pay using Apple Pay. Before, transactions had been limited to products and services from businesses and institutions. Apple also detailed that AirPlay 2, a new feature of iOS 11, will give you multiroom audio control, so we imagine that HomePod will fit right into that scenario, like Sonos would.

Ortutay reported from NY.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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