Saturday, 19 August, 2017

New smart speaker expected as Apple kicks off conference

Lori Graves | 07 June, 2017, 18:53

As expected, Apple on Monday unveiled a new version of its virtual assistant Siri at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote. It would mark an effort by Apple to catch up with Amazon and Google. These giants are battling over still-emerging fields that are expected to turn into technological gold mines, much the way personal computers and smartphones became moneymaking machines in previous decades.

The market for Internet-connected speakers and other smart home technology may be big enough to help Apple diversify. But Apple was careful to frame it as a product focused on music first - potentially differentiating it from the Echo and Home. HomePod, Apple Music and Siri deliver the best music experience in the home that streams ad-free directly to HomePod.

Inside, it's smarter than your average speaker.

Schiller said the HomePod will be deeply integrated with the Apple Music streaming music service. Google, at its own developers conference, announced that its Google Home will work with more devices, thanks to a Bluetooth connection, as well as even deeper integration with its own services.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

Apple will go head-to-head with rivals Amazon and Google, as the USA tech giant throws its hat into the growing smart home arena.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released a year ago, were the first entrants in a promising market.

The device is just under seven inches tall and uses spacial awareness to improve how it sounds based on the acoustics and available space in its surrounding environment.

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The "HomePod" speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years. Although that product came out after other smartwatches hit the market, it quickly outshone competitors, according to industry research firms.

Apple is introducing a 10.5-inch iPad Pro in an attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets.

"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. Google Home followed in October and Microsoft's assistant, Cortana, is also finding a home in home speakers. 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.

Apple also noted that multiple speakers can be paired meaning it's expecting some people to buy more than one to use as a multi-speaker setup or around the house. Like other smart speakers, audio information isn't sent to Apple's cloud until this voice command has been issued, Apple said.

Apple saved its most anticipated WWDC announcement for the very end. The idea is to get outside software programmers geared up to write apps for Apple products.

But Apple is late to the game on VR.

Siri, which was introduced in 2011 as an exclusive feature of the iPhone 4S, now works on iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, and Mac computers.

The company also rolled out tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads. Or if someone texts you about owing money, it will ask if you want to pay from your Apple Pay account. Cook is aiming to double services revenue, which also includes products like iCloud and Apple Music, to around US$50bil (RM212.85bil) by 2020.

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