Apple follows Amazon and Google with smart speaker

A Star Wars virtual reality demo running on an iMac.                  Screenshot by Sean Hollister  CNET

A Star Wars virtual reality demo running on an iMac. Screenshot by Sean Hollister CNET

Apple's Kevin Lynch speaks about the Apple Watch announcement of new products at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Monday, June 5, 2017.

Apple has finally unveiled its answer to Amazon's and Google's smart speakers slash digital assistants - and it's called HomePod.

Paired with an A8 chip as its smarts-controlling brain, this is said to create a powerful, distortion-free sound that offers real-time acoustic modelling.

Additionally, it will integrate tightly to control HomeKit devices, so you can dim the lights or other such home automation tasks, using your voice. The HomePod is expected to sell for $349 and be available in December in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

Apple's music-first sales pitch may explain why Apple is pricing this device much higher than comparable home-assistant devices from Google and Amazon, which are not advertised as high-fidelity music devices. If Apple wants to be more than a hardware company, it needs to break out of its profit game sometimes. Siri was introduced as a feature in the iPhone 4S in 2011, three years before Amazon came out with Alexa and the Echo.

Apple, though, doesn't sell its primary products at a loss or anything close to it.

A survey released last month by research firm eMarketer found Echo speakers held 70.6 percent of the USA market, compared with 23.8 percent for Google Home and 5.6 percent for others including Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel.

Apple said on Monday that HomePod would cost $349.

Apple has revealed its Siri-powered HomePod smart-speaker.

"Though Apple appears to be playing catch up with Amazon and Google, the primary casualty here may be Sonos".

Claiming that it will do to your home what the iPod did to portable music Apple is pushing this as the first premium speaker that combines intelligence with incredible sound quality.

HomePod capped a keynote presentation at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference that included updates to its iPad and Mac laptop lines, and upgraded operating software enabling augmented reality for iPhones and iPads.

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

Siri, the company's almost-forgotten, voice-activated assistant, has always been outdone and eclipsed by Amazon and Google's hardware assistants.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera - the same one found in the iPhone 7 - along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released a year ago, were the first entrants in a promising market. If the speculation pans out, the speaker would be Apple's first new product since its smartwatch in 2015. People who own an Amazon Kindle or a Google Chromecast web-streaming connector for TV sets are more likely to gravitate to other technology from those companies or, in the case of Amazon, fill up their digital shopping carts more often.

The younger siblings of the Apple hardware world, the Apple TV and Apple Watch are also due for some software updates.

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