Apple aims to 'reinvent home music' with HomePod smart speaker

Apple made the pitch yesterday that it tried to create a speaker that is better than Sonos, yet as smart as Google Home or Amazon Echo. And it would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google.

As Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research observed, this year's WWDC was the iPhone vendor's "most hardware-centric" conference in years even without the introduction of a new iPhone.

Leading up to it, Apple says those outside app developers have earned more than $70 billion since Apple's app store launched in 2008.

"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.

Siri is Apple's virtual assistant, which has previously only been available on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

With the combination of Apple-engineered audio technology and advanced software, the HomePod's main goal is to rock the house.

Apple also touched on other Siri features in the speaker, although these were mentioned in a secondary manner - the company is clearly focusing on the music capabilities.

CEO Tim Cook kicked off Apple's annual conference for software programmers on Monday.

HomePod will go on sale in the U.S. in December for $349. The device would compete with Amazon.com's Echo speakers and Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google Home device. The Amazon Echo, with its signature Alexa assistant, is still the undisputed market leader in terms of compatibility with smart home brands.

More than 35 million people in the USA are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than doubling from last year, according the research firm eMarketer. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more.

Aimed at high-end design professionals rather than the home market, the iMac Pro is to begin shipping in December with a starting price of $4,999.

Still, the Apple Watch hasn't been a smash hit, fueling worries that the company's ability to transfix customers had waned after the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

Cook used the Apple keynote to show off new iPad and Mac computer models, as well as provide glimpses at coming versions of the software powering the technology titan's devices. Google already tries to be proactive with its Assistant on Android phones and Google Home speaker.

Users can also interact with Siri, via the smart speaker, about plenty of everyday things like asking about news, traffic, weather, sports, translations, and other general knowledge.

"Apple has embarked on a complete overhaul of Siri as it responds to considerable competition and heightening user expectations", he said.

More nuanced, though, were some key announcements regarding Apple's pursuit of artificial intelligence. HomePod, Apple Music and Siri deliver the best music experience in the home that streams ad-free directly to HomePod.

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